Back to School, 2013



You could see a movie. You could overspend at a trendy restaurant. You could take in a Broadway show. But if you’re looking for a fresh approach to courtship—and one that, happily, involves alcohol—you could try the “Couple’s Date Night Painting Class Party” at Art Studio NY on the Upper West Side. Couples will learn such techniques as “color mixing, brushwork, composition, texture,” etc. If inspiration palls, complimentary wine might help.

The first marathoner ran 26.2 miles to deliver news of a battle, and promptly died. Happily, the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture has a slightly less rigorous program in mind. This fall, they’ll offer three two-week, all-day marathons: two in drawing (one on location at the High Line) and one in sculpture. Open to both beginning and advanced students, the programs require “vigor,” “intensity,” and “stamina.”


The World Wide Web has been with us for more than 20 years. While it’s easier to use than ever, creating good-looking, functional sites can still be a sticky proposition. If the web still has you feeling more fly than spider, you can up your game with instruction in website development at Netcom Learning in the Flatiron District. The comprehensive 16-session course begins with HTML and moves on to more advanced languages. By its close, “participants will qualify for entry-level web developer positions.”


With the advent of new products and technologies—Kindles, scanners, personal computers, digital libraries—the future of paper looks less than bright. But this has not dimmed the enthusiasm of the founders of the Dieu Donné Papermill in midtown. In September, they’ll offer “Introduction to Contemporary Papermaking.” This three-hour workshop, for which all materials are provided, “includes a lecture, demonstration, viewing of works from the archive at Dieu Donné, and hands-on experimentation.” After all, sheet happens.

Quilting may seem a cozy and rather dowdy practice, but the earliest known quilted garment adorned a pharaoh in 3400 B.C. And do you really want to argue style with a pharaoh? If you’d like a head start on keeping warm and snug when fall arrives, consider the classes at City Quilter in Chelsea. Upcoming offerings include “Hand Quilting,” “Indigo Dyeing Workshop,” “Machine Embroidery,” and “Yipes! Stripes!”


Shopping is one of New York’s premier sports, and sometimes a contact one. Newcomers quickly learn to eschew retail, favoring sales, sample sales, consignment, and the discount warren that is Century 21. So perhaps it’s time to profit from those skills. The Sterling Style Academy in Murray Hill offers “Three-Day Personal Styling and Shopping Certification.” The first day focuses on color analysis, the second on fashion styling, and the third on personal styling. How to manage all those in-store credit cards? Extra credit.

When it comes to fashion, “sportswear” is rarely the sort of thing you’d want to throw on for a bike ride or jog. But the Fashion Institute of Technology has several courses geared toward outdoor activities. You can learn how to best exploit spandex, rubber soles, and the finest in wicking with such classes as “Ergonomics for Athletics” and “Athletic Footwear Sketching.” And if you want to try out those designs, FIT offers yoga, tennis, and aerobics, too.


A lot can happen in a single day, some of it eminently filmable. You could be born; you could die. You could find love or lose it. You could learn to make your very own documentary. The Gotham Writers’ Workshop offers a seven-hour class on the Upper East Side titled “Documentary Film: One-Day Intensive.” Topics include “how to conceive ideas, structure stories, conduct research and interviews, write narration, and adapt your plans to the footage you get.”

The word “camera” appeared in English long before someone invented one. (Originally an architectural term, it referred to any vaulted chamber.) But cameras have come a long way, and in September, the Modern School of Film offers a four-week intensive workshop showing you how best to use the digital video variety. In this class, capped at 10 students, participants will learn screenwriting, editing, and filmmaking craft, producing three film projects along the way.

Food and Drink

Perhaps you thought tea an innocent beverage, less caffeinated than coffee, less sugary than soda, less fun than alcohol. Think again. Sanctuary T in Soho will host several sessions of “Mixology: Create Tea-Infused Cocktails,” offering recipes for Earl Grey martinis, green tea margaritas, and more. If the $60 price tag seems a trifle steep to learn about a drink made mostly from water, keep in mind that each student will receive five cocktails, one appetizer, and, unsurprisingly, unlimited tea.

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are,” said the epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. If you don’t like the resulting self-portrait, consider improving your diet and culinary skills with classes at the Flatiron District’s Natural Gourmet Institute, which devotes itself to healthy food. More advanced topics cover “Detox,” “Food and Mood,” and “Raw Radiance,” but consider starting slowly with a series of basics: “How to Begin,” “Knife Skills,” and “Mostly Vegetarian Cooking Techniques.”

For Children and Teens

Do you suspect that those crayon scrawls, watercolor blurs, and Play-Doh sculptures suggest real talent? Then why not enroll your tot in the School of Visual Arts? In addition to its offerings for undergraduates, SVA also sponsors several programs for artistically inclined kids and teens. The school offers “Foundations in Art” for elementary-schoolers, “Painting and Drawing” for middle-schoolers, and “Portfolio Preparation” for teens “interested in compiling a body of artwork.”

Perhaps you’re the sort of parent who frets every time your child climbs a jungle gym or seizes a pair of scissors. If so, you probably don’t want to sign your offspring up at the Brooklyn Fencing Center in Boerum Hill. After donning a mask, gloves, and assorted protective gear, children will receive basic instruction in this noble, elegant, and only occasionally dangerous pastime.


We tend to think of yoga, no matter how vigorous or challenging, as a peaceful experience. The instructors at Om Factory, with locations in the fashion district and near Union Square, think differently. They’ve established “Yoga Fight Club,” which mixes Vinyasa yoga with kickboxing to combine “fast-twitch and slow-resistance conditioning techniques.” Just try not to become so enlightened and invigorated that you beat up your classmates.

Events at New York’s Open Center aren’t all herbal tea and finger cymbals; some of them skew just a little bit racy. For example, in September, the center will host a seven-and-a-half-hour (!) session devoted to “Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the 21st Century.” Under the tutelage of sex educator Barbara Carrella, participants learn “the bliss that comes when our spiritual and sexual paths are one.” Before you get too hot and bothered, the course does not include nudity or “explicit sexual touch.”


It’s been a while since French really functioned as the language of diplomacy or love. (After all, the French only recently developed a word for “French kiss.”) But it’s still the language of “croissant,” “Syrah,” “couture,” and many other fine things. If you’ve longed to learn it, Fluent City offers introductory courses at its midtown and Williamsburg locations. The class will cover pronunciation, small talk, common vocabulary, and the four most popular verbs. Chouette!


“No great thing is created suddenly,” the Stoic philosopher Epictetus tells us. So it might behoove you to spend 12 hours at The Creativity Workshop in Chelsea, which runs a seminar designed to “stimulate your creativity and imagination, and get in touch with the innate creativity you already have.” Over the course of four days, participants will learn practical techniques, overcome blocks, and establish “a 15-minute-a-day creativity practice.”


Perhaps you didn’t think there was much art to floral arranging. Procure flowers, trim stems, source vase, add water—done! But the New York Botanic Garden knows that there’s a bit more to it. It offers “New Trends in Floral Design,” focusing on “multirhythmic design” as well as several sessions of “Floral Design Fundamentals” and “Basics of Wedding Design.” For the lazier pupil, there is “Flower Arranging with Store Bought Bouquets.”

It’s been a while since early immigrants exiled the Lenape from Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. But some of the foliage they once harvested still remains. In August, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden will host “Edible and Medicinal Native Plants of the Northeast.” Participants will explore the newly expanded Native Flora Garden, investigating the uses of wild ginger, pickerel weed, and wapato.


Without light, there can be no photography. (Well, actually there probably could, but your pictures would all look remarkably alike.) But Brooklyn Central in DUMBO wants to help you to learn to take shots in the dark. In “Night Vision,” instructors will help would-be flashers push their “idea of ‘available light’ to its limits.” Arrive with a digital camera and tripod (a remote shutter release is recommended, too) and prepare to give in to the gloom.


Sure, most New Yorkers can run, bike, and swim. (It’s what some of us call commuting.) But a triathlon requires a rather more rigorous application of these skills. If you feel like testing the limits of human endurance in the late summer sun, Chelsea Piers hosts a “Level I Training Program” for aspiring triathletes. This eight-week program, which begins August 19, meets for three mornings each week, alternating the main components. And remember, outdoor workouts are strictly BYOB: Bring Your Own Bike.

Your workout just got a little more dangerous. At New York Wu Tang Kung Fu in Flushing, the “Weapons and Beginner Adults Class” introduces students to various armaments. After learning basics, blocking, and timing, students have the opportunity to choose between the saber, the dagger, and the staff. The training at this 25-year-old academy focuses on “helping students conquer their fears and their lack of will power.” Looking sharp!

Theater and Performing Arts

The banjo has come a long way since early African-Americans formed them from hollowed-out gourds and whittled sticks. But it still occupies a signal place in American music. Those looking to master this iconic instrument can attend an August 13 banjo beginners’ workshop at Hudson River Park, sponsored by the Jalopy School of Music. The 90-minute class may even improve your mood. As banjo aficionado Steve Martin notes, “The banjo is such a happy instrument.”

Could Aristotle carry a tune? The famed philosopher was known to remark, “Song is man’s sweetest joy.” We have it on good authority that some women like it, too. If you’d like to get in on this bliss, you might choose one of the tuneful workshops at the Singing Experience in Hell’s Kitchen. The September/October session, entitled “Make Someone Happy,” will stress microphone technique, working with an accompanist, and building confidence. The course culminates in a performance at a Manhattan cabaret.


Is anyone in the movie biz more demeaned than writers? Even dolly grips and best boys seem to command more respect. But if you’re determined to sell your soul to Hollywood, the Jacob Krueger Studio in the Flatiron District offers a time- and cost-sensitive class titled “Write Your Screenplay.” The course promises to focus less on technique than on helping you “overcome writer’s block, self doubt, procrastination, and other obstacles.”

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle,” said George Orwell, “like a long bout of some painful illness.” (As Orwell ultimately died from a long bout of some painful illness, he had some grounds for the simile.) If you’d like to write regardless, consider some of the classes open to continuing education students at Columbia University. Fall offerings include workshops in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, at all levels as well as “Approaches to the Short Story,” “Exercises in Style,” and “First Person.”

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