We all get stuck in ruts, but luckily us New Yorkers live in the best place on earth for getting unstuck. The best of the best come here, and the most generous among them share their talents with us. Looking for a new hobby? An ideal way to productively spend some me-time? Maybe you’re looking for a creative career change and need a nudge? Fill your lungs with some (metaphorical) pencil shavings and get excited — we’re going to class!
We’ve written before about amazing resources like Brooklyn Brainery for adding some pizzazz to your social circle, but what about adding some pizzazz to your personal skills, enjoyment, sense of self? Below I’ve compiled a list of Brooklyn-based classes in various arts-related disciplines:
Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics (Greenpoint)
Do you ever find yourself browsing a small boutique (read: hipster) and come across the most precious mugs or plant pots and think “I could do that!” Well you didn’t, but now you can!
Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics, located in Greenpoint, holds small classes every month to teach you how to make porcelain mugs, planters, dinnerware, etc. This isn’t just some grown Color Me Mine — you really learn artisanal methods for shaping, firing,and coloring your own pieces. They’ve got the minimalist, hand-crafted style down, so if you’re looking to sip from a twee mug as you wistfully look out a window, you can trust that they’ll be teaching the most in-vogue methods for your Insta-filtered life.
Bien Hecho Academy (Brooklyn Navy Yard)
Channel your inner Ron Swanson at Bien Hecho Academy! This 6-week course taught in their sprawling Navy Yard compound will provide a beginner’s guide to woodworking and furniture-making. They provide all the materials and tools with the class fee, and at the end you’ll walk away with a cutting board and side table that you made yourself! From wood! Like a woodsy artisan who smells of oak and lives a life of quiet contentment! It’s better than any of those IKEA furniture hacks people keep convincing us to do.
Textile Art Center (Gowanus)
A toxic river runs through it — but they’re cleaning it up! Ahh Gowanus, where repurposed warehouse lots can become XL-sized anything, meaning major spaces like the Textile Art Center become multimedia behemoths for all forms of fiber art. You can learn to weave on their dozens of looms, dye your fabrics, sew, macrame, work leather, make paper, and more. They offer series, workshops, and intensives (based on how hard you’re looking to go) for adults as well as kids. Looms large in my imagination! (I’m so sorry.)
(Downtown BK, Prospect Heights, East Flatbush, Coney Island)
This Downtown BK-based nonprofit media & arts center is an incredible resource if you’re looking to get into photography, graphic design, theater, or television, film, or audio production. You may know them from their summer-long Celebrate Brooklyn! concert series in Prospect Park, but they’re also a huge
educational tool to all Brooklynites. The Media Education Courses not only teach you how to craft stories and use the latest technologies to create them, but once certified, they allow you free rentals of their studio spaces, equipment, and use of their distribution channels. Best part? YOU own whatever you make — even if they air your material, you own the rights to it and can take it and distribute it wherever your artistic lil heart desires!
BRIC also has other locations for their classes and equipment checkout, so if the Downtown Cultural District doesn’t work for you, they are often at the Central Brooklyn Public Library (Prospect Heights) or in their East Flatbush and Coney Island locations.
We have so many amazing resources throughout the city for a solo or group documentary-viewing sesh, but what about a community of doc lovers and creators? Enter UnionDocs, a nonprofit documentary arts center nestled in SE Williamsburg. UnionDocs is a community of local journalists, experimental filmmakers, audio producers, and more who create multimedia nonfiction programming, either through the center or independently. One of their wings is educational: they host a series of excellent, intensive weekend-long workshops. A small handful of students, from beginners entering a new field to professionals looking to expand their skill set, are matched with an industry professional. Workshops include a Radio Bootcamp series and documentary intensives focusing on Essay Films and Investigative Documentary.
Trestle Gallery (Sunset Park)
I’d recommend their Paint & Drinks classes as a communal experience , but Trestle Gallery in Sunset Park also hosts some incredible amateur-to-professional level workshops if you want to go with friends or solo to become a true artiste! In addition to their residencies and professional training program, TG’s Community Classes Program allows students to try their hand at or hone their skills in at new disciplines. TG’s mission is to employ local artists to train new local artists, so here professional artists hold workshops for figure drawing, watercolors, block printing, silk screening, etc.
Brooklyn Museum (Prospect Heights)
I couldn’t leave one of Brooklyn’s preeminent art institutions off this list. The Brooklyn Museum houses an impressively wide array of art spanning from contemporary American painting to ancient Asian objects, and like many of our city’s cultural institutions, the museum offers educational programming for all ages. Their Gallery/Studio program is offered seasonally, with weekly courses divided by medium (painting, photography, printmaking) and theme (this season: Modern Love, Urban Portraits, Resistance.) These themes are tied to contemporaneous exhibits being held by the Brooklyn Museum, so you truly feel like you’re interacting established art housed in your learning space. Plus the building is really rad and near the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, Grand Army Plaza, and Prospect Park.
Mark Morris Dance Center (Fort Greene)
Dance is probably one of the more freeing forms of self-expression. And while lights-out-at-the-club gyration is fun on a Saturday night, sometimes I want some legit moves. And by legit moves I mean this:
Yes, I want to be an adult woman who goes from zero dance training to a dancer extraordinaire, don’t you? Luckily New York attracts some of the best dancers in the world, and some of them teach us their moves! Worry not, beginner classes won’t mean you’ll be surrounded by 6-year-olds in their leotards (this has happened to me), but just other curious, if potentially uncoordinated, grown folk. Mark Morris Dance Center is an amazing studio in Brooklyn’s Cultural District where beginner-to-advanced dancers can take classes in ballet, tap, modern, and world dance. You can even find them on ClassPass if you just want a fun form of exercise.
Stems (Prospect Heights)
Since the first official day of Spring 2018 was greeted by a snowstorm, I think it’s safe to say the floral bouquets in our apartments are the only greenery we can safely count on. Floral arrangement is a deceptively simple art — it takes a good amount of knowledge, skill, and a keen eye to make your lil bunch of roses from the bodega centerpiece-worthy. If you’ve ever been interested in arranging personally or professionally, you can get your first taste at Stems! A cute flower shop fronting Juniper yoga studio in Prospect Heights, Stems offers public and private workshops for floral design, from flower crowns to bouquets. They provide all the resources and knowledge, and at the end you walk away with an arrangement you made yourself!! You could bring it to a SO or to a friend’s homecoming (summer moving season is upon us!), but if I were you I’d keep it for myself while I wait for Prospect Park to thaw.
Ample Hills (Gowanus)
Finally, a brief foray into the culinary arts. If you are a lactose-tolerant Brooklynite who has not tried Ample Hills yet, run, don’t walk! They’ve expanded quite a bit from their original Vanderbilt outpost, where people keep coming back for their homemade ice creams creatively crafted with homemade mix-ins, with flavors like Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, Snap Mallow Pop, and even a delicious vegan chocolate ice cream, Oh Fudge! They now have two Manhattan locations, a spot at Disney World (Ample Hills is the most magical place on earth amirite?), Brooklyn Heights, Far Rockaway, Downtown BK, and Gowanus. In the final location (because everything is bigger in Gowanus!) they host classes so you can make, bake, and churn your own ice cream, taught by an Ample Hills co-founder. This one might be better as a group activity, but going solo means you don’t have to share an ounce of your hard-churned labor. Classes include Ice Cream 101; Bourbon, Beer and Boozy Floats; and Dairy-Free Decadence: A Vegan Delight.
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Photo Credits: 1) Image courtesy of Trestle 2) Image courtesy of Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics 3) Image courtesy of Bien Hecho Academy 4) Image courtesy of Textile Art Center 5) Image courtesy of BRIC 6) Image courtesy of UnionDocs 7) Image courtesy of Mark Morris Dance Group 8) Image courtesy of Stems 9) Image courtesy of Ample Hills