This is probably the coolest art course I have ever seen: “Comprehensive Fundamentals of Blacksmithing” at the Center for Metal Arts in nearby Florida, New York (845-651-7550, iceforge.com). If Jennifer Beals’s comeback on The L Word hasn’t reinspired welding fantasies, maybe the glossy allure of “Freeform Forging” will.
If you have trouble navigating Manhattan’s galleries, enroll in “The Contemporary Art Scene,” offered by the 92nd Street Y (212-415-5562, 92y.org). Walking tours offer insights into current trends, providing the opportunity to enrich and even move beyond your one painstakingly memorized art anecdote.
“Drawing Flowers With Colored Pencil” at the New York Botanical Gardens (800-322-6924, nybg.org.edu) invites those with mysteriously large quantities of broken crayons to stop hoarding and instead create something beautiful. But if flowers seem threateningly intricate, take baby steps with “Drawing for Absolute Beginners” at Cooper Union (212-353-4195, www.cooper.edu/ce). Janine Armin
Does your knowledge of Brighton Beach start and end with Neil Simon’s memoirs? Is your appreciation of Russian cuisine limited to off-color jokes about knishes? Resolve both deficiencies on a three-hour culinary walking tour of the historic Brooklyn neighborhood, run by the New School (212-255-4141, nsu.newschool.edu). See everything from fabled restaurants and delis to seaside ice cream parlors, then end with lunch. Sunday, May 1, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In these days of cocoa percentages and boutique chocolate shops, a good old Hershey bar just doesn’t cut it. But if you knew that already, if you in fact haven’t touched milk chocolate in 10 years and consider molten chocolate cake hopelessly ’90s, then maybe it’s time to take your connoisseurship to the next level with the New School‘s “Master Class in Chocolate” (212-255-4141, nsu.newschool.edu). You’ll learn to make everything from candies to bavarois to diabetic shock. Five sessions, beginning April 25. Cost: $870 plus materials.
If you’re an important figure in the world of cheese, you probably have to accept that people are going to call you the “Big Cheese.” It happened to Rob Kaufelt, proprietor of the legendary Murray’s Cheese Shop in the West Village, but thankfully he stayed in the game. Now he shares his expertise. Kaufelt holds a regular seminar, “Cheese 101: Ask the Big Cheese,” at the store’s new 254 Bleecker Street digs (212-243-3289, ext. 25, murrayscheese.com). Suitable for both the clueless and the caseophile, the class explains the fundamentals, offers a selection for tasting, and discusses wine pairings. Theo Schell-Lambert
Lower Manhattan’s modern-dance hot spot Dance Space Center (212-625-8369, dancespace.com) hosts a guest-artist series this April and May. Popular choreographers Gerald Casel, Juliette Mapp, John Beasant III, Ashleigh Leite, and B.J. Sullivan bring their eclectic material for weekly programs of open classes.
Return to the earth: Explore African and Haitian classes at Djoniba Dance and Drum Centre (212-477-3464, djoniba.com). Beginners, try Saturdays from 2 to 3:30 p.m., taught by Djoniba (African dance) and Mikerline (Haitian dance). The mellow, noncompetitive environment stimulates you to the roots of dance through high-intensity classes and occasional live drumming. Katie Clancy
Unleash your inner Chris Rock at the “Stand-Up Comedy” class at NYU (212-998-7200, scps.nyu.edu). You’ll learn the tricks of this very difficult trade—from how to write your own material to how to get gigs—and after 10 sessions of practicing your set in front of your classmates and a final performance in a comedy club competition, maybe you’ll be ready to host the Oscars!
If you read Arthur Miller’s recent obit and wondered, “Who’s he?” then perhaps enrollment in Columbia‘s “Discovering American Drama” (212-854-9699, ce.columbia.edu/summer) should be in your future. Explore the major American playwrights of the mid 20th century from Eugene O’Neill to Tennessee Williams. You’ll never think of Miller as Mr. Marilyn Monroe again.
Do you always mean to go the theater, but never seem to actually get to any shows? NYU‘s “Summertime at the Play’s the Thing” (212-998-7200, scps.nyu.edu) will get you off your butt, away from the summer reruns, and into the plush velvet seats of some Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters. Over the class’s six sessions you’ll see three shows and be treated to after-show discussions with actors and production staff. Rebecca Raber
Everyone and her mother has followed in Julia Roberts’s footsteps and learned to knit; be different and learn to crochet. The Yarn Co. (212-787-7878, theyarnco.com) offers private, 90-minute lessons by appointment on Saturday afternoons for only $60, after which you’ll have learned all of the basic stitches needed to make afghan blankets, hats, and sweaters.
Jealous of those girls on the L train in their super-hip, one-of-a-kind, handmade frocks? Learn how to execute your own happening designs at NYU‘s sewing class (212-998-7200, scps.nyu.edu). You’ll learn how to lay out a pattern, construct a garment, and use the sewing machine—even if you have no prior experience. Next thing you know some Gap-swathed kid will be envying you on the subway.
Love to express yourself through accessories? F.I.T.‘s “Principles of Jewelry Design” (212-217-3334, fitnyc.edu) will teach you how to create your own—so you’ll always be an original. Rebecca Raber
New Yorkers are fond of yelling at the movie screen when they think they recognize a familiar sight. (“That’s my friend’s cousin’s building!“) Now we can know for sure if that’s our local diner in the latest Woody Allen flick, thanks to NYU‘s “On Location in New York” (212-998-7200, scps.nyu.edu). Students watch scenes from New York films, then check out their original locations. The four-day course is capped off by a visit to a current on-location production. June 20 through 23.
Your plastic-framed glasses and threadbare hoodie scream “independent filmmaker,” but your mom screams, “Get a job.” Enroll in “Indie Film Producing and Directing,” a three-week course (June 6-24) at the New School (212-229-8903, nsu.newschool.edu), which covers the nitty-gritty of directing—camera angles, blocking actors—and explains how to finance your film. They even provide the camera (but you have to give it back).
Those once chiseled features may now be face-lifted into a grandfatherly perma-grin, but there was a time when Clint Eastwood could have made John Wayne pee his pants. This summer he will be the subject of a class at Columbia entitled “Auteur Study: Clint Eastwood” (212-854-1682, ce.columbia.edu). See Clint both in front of the camera and behind it. Worship his badass-ness. Theo Schell-Lambert
We all have our strengths. Some of us are aesthetes, able to find beauty in the everyday. Others can balance a checkbook. Makor (212-601-1000, 92y.org) dissolves this cognitive divide, promising that its “Left-Brain Investing for Right-Brain Creative Individuals” will bring out “the Gordon Gekko inside us all.”
As the old advice goes, “Find out what you love to do, then find out how to make money doing it.” The Learning Annex (212-371-0280, learningannex.com) clarifies the dilemma with its series of one-day classes on using your passion to turn a profit. From “Learn How to Braid Hair for Fun and Profit” to “Learn to Make One-of-a-Kind Brooches” and “How to Start a Greeting Card Business,” it seems that any hobby can lead to an untapped market.
But what good’s all this money if you have nothing to spend it on? Check out Makor‘s “Gimme Shelter: Advice on Negotiating the NYC Real Estate Market” (212-601-1000, 92y.org). From figuring out how to find a fair rental to determining when it’s time to buy, a comprehensive understanding of this pitfall-laden area is just a shot away. Chris Tamarri
While the U.S. searches for its identity (red? blue? purple?), it’s important to remember that how the international community views us might be just as important as how we view ourselves. “The United Nations and International Conflict,” from Columbia (212-854-9699, ce.columbia.edu), puts matters into perspective by examining the role of the world government—of which we are a part—and its role in ensuring peace.
“Refugee Protection and Practice,” offered by NYU (212-998-7200, scps.nyu.edu), examines the problem of political expatriation, detailing how what often begins as a national concern can eventually have an international effect. The class focuses on the “special circumstances and concerns of refugee women [and] children,” and will feature guest speakers from the International Rescue Committee and Human Rights Watch. Chris Tamarri
Elevate your diction to intimidating heights with “Building Word Power,” offered by NYU (212-998-7200, scps.nyu.edu). Say exactly what’s on your mind using conversational devices beyond your wittiest dreams.
There’s a lot to like about the French, namely the pastries and cheese. If you want to know how to order these things at a café, and perhaps venture a tête-à-tête with the bijou waiter, learn everything you need to know in one day! The condensed course “One-Day French for Travelers” at the New School (212-229-5690, nsu.newschool.edu) will allow you to spend your valuable time planning your flight to Paris or closer and “so hot right now” Montreal.
April’s climate has been very Das Boot. Work through your waterlogged Kafka blues in “German for Beginners” at the German Language School New York (212-288-0600, germanschoolny.com). This crucial literary language will add depth to your achtung summer, with an insider’s view of the revelatory recesses of Rilke’s poetry. (You will also learn how to use the word achtung correctly in a sentence.) Janine Armin
Don’t know Dizzy Gillespie from Dizzee Rascal? Get your jazz history straight at NYU‘s “Jazz in the Modern Age: Bebop to Right Now” (212-998-7200, scps.nyu.edu), where you’ll study the growth of jazz from post-WW II bebop through the fusion experiments of the ’60s to the artists of today. After all, loving jazz means never having to say, “Who’s Charlie Parker?”
Have you always dreamed of wielding your ax like Jimmy Page, but never come closer than embarrassing exercises on air guitar while locked in your bedroom? The New York City Guitar School (646-485-7244, nycguitarschool.com) has group lessons for all abilities. Their “Guitar for Absolute Beginners” will teach those with no musical experience (even those who can’t read music and don’t own guitars) how to rock by learning basic chords and mastering different strums. You’ll be playing “Stairway to Heaven” in no time. Rebecca Raber
A colorful garden can provide a welcome contrast to the drab urban palette, but come summertime it’s an olfactory antidote that’s truly appreciated. Want to grow flowers that smell as lovely as they look? Head to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on June 25 and take “Gardening for Fragrance,” a three-hour class that will help you transform your 10 square feet of urban green space into an aromatic oasis (718-623-7200, bbg.org).
The paintings of the Hudson River School, a term applied to artists depicting rural mid-19th-century New York, helped affirm the connection between the natural world and the identity of a young nation. And you just thought they were pretty. Learn more about these deeply evocative pieces and their social and political implications at “Nature and the American Vision: Masterworks of Landscape” on May 21 at the New-York Historical Society (212-873-3400, nyhistory.org). The class will feature works by Durand, Bierstadt, Cropsey, and more.
Has the furor over Pale Male gotten you feeling all ornithological? You needn’t be a resident of a Fifth Avenue co-op to get in on the action. The Brooklyn Bird Club, around since 1909, offers regular bird-watching events, both at its Prospect Park home base and farther afield (brooklynbirdclub.org). Upcoming events focus on migrating species, this being the season, and include the “Birdathon,” a nationwide bird-spotting competition held on May 14, International Bird Migratory Day. Theo Schell-Lambert
Cameras have infiltrated our computers and cell phones. Considering how much photo buildup the average urbanite incurs, maybe it’s time some of us learn how to avoid making our friends look like idiots by taking “Portrait Photography” at Cooper Union (212-353-4195, cooper.edu/ce). And once you’re competent you can get “creative” with your pictures by enrolling in “Photoshop: Creative Imaging” at Tisch (212-998-1800, photo.tisch.nyu.edu).
Encumbered by pressure to impress with your breadth of knowledge? Take a chance and do something more specific with “Photogravure and Direct Gravure” at Cooper Union (212-353-4195, cooper.edu/ce) where “students learn to etch the plate gradually from the deepest shadows to the brightest highlights.” This will prove useful in your art as well as in consultation with your hair dresser.
The School of Visual Arts‘ “Summer Residency in Photography” (212-592-2188, schoolofvisualarts.edu/ce) immerses students’ in the photographic world. Brave the darkroom fumes and reform your images into stark black-and-whites rather than the dull grays to which you’ve lazily become accustomed. Janine Armin
RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY
Broke yogis look no further! New students at any of BeYoga‘s five easily accessible studios (212-935-9642 [midtown], beyoga.com) align their spines, and pay only $40 for a month of unlimited classes. The studios offer a $10 restorative class plus a variety of levels and flavors to suit any body. For kids, beginners, pregnant, and advanced students, BeYoga gracefully blends aspects of Hatha, Tantra philosophy, and Indian Ayurvedic healing into 60 blissful minutes.
Reach your fullest capacity for relaxation and awareness at Osho Active Meditation (917-513-6619, trancebreath.com), where you can explore breathing techniques, ecstatic movement, vocalization, dance, and stillness. Classes are accompanied by African, Middle Eastern, and trance rhythms.
Gain some clarity and perspective by attending the four-week, Buddhist-oriented “Introduction to Meditation” courses, beginning May 5 and June 2, at Greenwich Village Center (212-749-0942, fwbo-nyc.org/events.html). Each week’s class focuses on a new topic: breathing, Metta Bhavana meditation, hindrances in meditation, and incorporation of meditation into our everyday lives. Katie Clancy
Kayaking, the preferred sport of the Nalgene set, may seem more appropriate for Boulder or Telluride than New York City, but the Manhattan Kayak Company (212-924-1788, manhattankayak.com) is taking steps to change that perception. In addition to guided tours and workouts, the group gives lessons on the Hudson for various skill levels. Don’t know a sweep stroke from a draw? There’s “Paddle Basics I.” Totally know those, but looking to work on low-brace turns? “Paddle Basics II.” The company even offers instruction in rolling (fear not the dubious hygiene of the Hudson: that one’s done in a pool).
Late spring in New York is leisure time, an occasion for champagne-and-strawberry picnics in the park and games that involve white boaters, V-neck sweaters, and not breaking a sweat. Enter lawn bowling. This genteel sport has been a part of New York history since the Dutch settlers landed at Bowling Green (get it now?), and it is still played by several clubs during the spring and summer in Central Park. Contact the Metropolitan Lawn Bowling Club (nysol.com/lawnbowl.html) and ask about a free lesson.
On the New York State Parks website, Manhattan’s single contribution, Riverbank State Park (212-694-3600), is described as “the only park of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.” The implications of an under-the-radar Grand Canyon in Washington Heights are misleading, but Riverbank is impressive, a sports complex and park built on a 28-acre rooftop above the Hudson. Offerings include basketball and volleyball leagues, fencing classes, and dirt-cheap memberships at the no-frills fitness center. Theo Schell-Lambert
The “Summer Writers Colony” offers salvation to those lacking in conversational thrust. Held at the New School (212-229-5611, nsu.newschool.edu), seminars, workshops, and readings will provide seekers of semantic perfection with advice from agents, editors, publishers, and major-league authors like Dennis Lehane and Joyce Carol Oates. In the “salon-style” atmosphere you will be given ample opportunity to enjoy informed discussions with people who might just be your new idols.
Sifting through a plethora of journals can be a daunting task for literary aspirants. Let the pros tell you the ins and outs of the literary scene and have plenty of time to bend the ear of publishing bigwigs at “Careers in Publishing” at NYU (212-998-7200, www.scps.nyu.edu). Janine Armin