27 Ways to Better Yourself This Summer in NYC


Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park, called it “a democratic development of the highest significance.” But it has its aesthetic points, too, and you can learn how best to exploit them at “Beginners Learn to Draw: Drawing Class in Central Park,” hosted by Art Studio NY. The two-hour class promises to cover “shading, composition, and personal expression.” If it rains, expect soggier subject matter.

Like the TARDIS, the Met seems bigger on the inside. Luckily, NYU‘s School of Continuing Education and Professional Studies promises to push you beyond the usual Egyptian temples and impressionist landscapes. With “Hidden Treasures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” you’ll spend six Friday evenings discovering the likes of French period rooms, the Cypriot Corridor, and Southeast Asian sculptures.

Many of us use our computers for little more than word processing, video streaming, Google searching, and stalking the occasional ex on Facebook. For those who need their Macs and PCs to perform more sophisticated tasks, the American Graphics Institute in midtown can help. Specializing in design, publishing, and marketing software, they offer classes in Dreamweaver, Photoshop, After Effects, InDesign, and Adobe Flash, Acrobat, and Illustrator.

Have you tried turning it off and on again? How about hitting control-alt-delete? Maybe giving the keyboard a good whack? It might work, but if you’re looking for a more sophisticated approach to computer diagnostics and overhaul, consider the “PC Repair Technician Program” at the Bronx Community College. And once your machine is up and running, they also offer courses designed to equip you for IT jobs, such as Linux+.

If you’ve ever said to yourself, Hey, a glass paperweight will really pull this room together, you can make your own after Brooklyn Glass‘s “One-Day Paperweight” course. The 4,000-square-foot Gowanus studio, which boasts two giant furnaces, also offers classes in flame-working, glassblowing, neon-bending, and one-day workshops in marble- and bead-making.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. So isn’t it time you taught yourself to associate with a better class of chum? During the Jewelry Arts Institute‘s summer semester, you can learn to craft your own trinkets and baubles. In this eight-session class in midtown, you’ll be tutored in jewelry design as well as such techniques as “soldering, stone-setting, and fusing.” Precious gems not included.

How should you spend your weekend nights? You could sip cocktails at some secret speakeasy, swap small plates at a new eatery, brave the throb and sweat and crowds at a nightclub. Or you could sew. On Friday nights, Chelsea’s City Quilter invites you to booze it up while you baste and tack at “Sip ‘n’ Sew.” And if you want to get tipsy on the foot treadle again, there’s “Saturday Night Sewing,” too.

The Oscars red carpet is a fashion-lover’s dream — the sweeping gowns, the statement tuxes, the occasional swan outfit. But the Fashion Institute of Technology insists that the more interesting clothes are preserved on celluloid. In “Fashion in Film and Media” you can learn about the cinematic outfits that have had the most influence on popular culture, with a focus on “wardrobe design, selection, and depiction.”

Billy Wilder believed that a movie director must be “a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant, and a bastard.” If you’d like to begin your multiple careers, start with “Camera Fundamentals,” a two-day workshop at DCTV. You’ll learn such video basics as “focus, exposure, white balance, and composition.” Plus, the workshop includes a one-year DCTV membership, offering access to equipment rentals and post-production facilities.

“If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed,” said Stanley Kubrick. Which is all well and good unless you’ve never moved beyond the title page of your teleplay. Happily, Columbia University offers a six-week “Television Writing Intensive.” You’ll choose between a half-hour-sitcom track and an hour-drama track focused on police and medical procedurals, with coursework supplemented with presentations by industry professionals.

Food and Drink
It’s a culinary truism that you probably don’t want to know what goes into your sausage. But if you’re curious and strong-stomached, Dickson’s Farmstand Meats in Chelsea Market hosts “Sausage Making 101” on April 7. After a brief lecture, students mix, season, stuff, and link their very own links. It’s the wurst! If that isn’t sufficiently carnivorous, the next week Dickson offers the make-your-own-jerky course “Jerkin’ Around with Ted.”

To make a cake, you’ll need to sift flour, soften butter, and separate eggs. Or not. In consideration of dietary allergies and antipathies, the Natural Gourmet Institute in the Flatiron District offers “Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Cakes.” Lest you think that will also make them free of pleasure, joy, and taste, the menu for April includes luscious lemon cake, orange cardamom cake, and maple apple walnut cake, as well as several varieties of boozy frosting.

In wine there is truth. And also many grapes. If you’d like to learn more about what’s in your glass, attend spring classes at the Upper East Side’s Vino-Versity. Learn the essentials with “Wine Basics,” then graduate to “Chips, Dips, and Sips” or “Pairing Wine and Cheeses: Rind, Brined, and Wined!” Once you’re an alcohol aficionado, you can try “Destination Wine Tasting,” which features 20 to 24 wines from a particular region with geographically appropriate snacks.

For Children and Teens
Sugar, spice, everything nice, and an enthusiasm for guitar shredding — is that what your little girl is made of? Then perhaps you’d like to enroll her in the Willa Mae Rock Camp for Girls, a six-day program in the financial district. On the first day of class, your badass lass is assigned to a band. She’ll spend the week writing music and lyrics, while also learning about sound engineering and self-defense. And at week’s end, she’ll play her album-ready song in a showcase concert.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Manhattan is an island surrounded by rivers and bays. You might not want to swim in our bodies of water, but you should still probably know how. You can make your tots amphibious at Physique Swimming on the Upper East Side. Beginner classes will teach them how to submerge, float, and kick, while more advanced courses offer training in particular strokes. There’s a summer camp, too.

There are teas for sleeping, teas for waking, teas for clarity, teas for calming, teas for fertility, teas for menopause. Rather than fork over all that money to Celestial Seasonings and Traditional Medicinals, why not make your own? On April 26, the New York Botanical Garden offers “Wellness — A Natural Approach: Creating Herbal Teas.” Here you’ll learn how to make “roots, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds into effective, pleasing blends.”

Do you feel yourself preyed upon by malevolent spirits? And do you love to rock it to the beat? If so, the Maha Rose Center for Healing at Greenpoint has an unusual solution: Dance it out. Every Friday, “party girl turned yogi” Debbie D. leads Dancorcism, a workout designed to cleanse your aura. The center also offers instruction in reiki, breathwork, tarot, past-life regression, and eating for your chakras.

There’s nothing like a Dane. Unless it’s a Swede. Or possibly a Norwegian. New Yorkers are crazy for Scandinavia — the design, the crime shows, the woolen sweaters. If you’d like to get closer to Nordic culture (or just watch Borgen without subtitles), you can begin your studies at Scandinavia House in midtown, which offers Swedish lessons, while the Danish Seamen’s Church and the Norwegian Language Institute can have you ordering smørrebrød and lutefisk in no time.,,

A lawn is a dream out of reach of most New Yorkers. Even a windowsill garden can be a stretch depending on season and exposure. But if you’d like to bring more foliage into your life without sacrificing square footage, you can sign up for the “Terrarium-Making Workshop” at Twig Terrarium in Gowanus. You’ll combine moss, air plants, and succulents to create your own miniature green space. Adorable little person to live inside? Included!

Manhattan might seem a concrete jungle, but at Sherman Creek Park, located near the tip of Manhattan along the Harlem River, you can receive free instruction from the Urban Park Rangers on how to care for New York’s greenery. Late spring and summer classes include “Gardening in Sherman Creek,” “Tree and Lawn Care,” and “Invasive Removal.”

Maybe you thought there was little more to picture taking than pointing, clicking, and applying Instagram filter. New York Film Academy in Battery Park City respectfully disagrees. In the “Four-Week Photography Workshop” (sessions begin April 7 and July 7), students work five to six days a week to learn digital photography with such units as “Studio Practice” and “Documentary and Fine Art Photography.”

Mark Twain supposedly described golf as a good walk spoiled, but at the petite Brooklyn Golf Center, you won’t have far to go. The wee driving range in Marine Park offers both private lessons and group clinics, plus classes for juniors. Display your new skills at the 18 holes nearby at Riis Park Beach, or simply show off at the attached miniature golf course.

Windsurfing circles were all aflutter when news broke that kiteboarding might replace breezier pursuits at the 2016 Olympics. But as the committee has restored windsurfing, you’d better restart your training. You can set sail at Hampton Watersports, a Southampton outfit that offers instruction for beginner and advanced windsurfers, as well as board and sail rentals. If you’re in kiteboarding’s corner, they have lessons in that, too, as well as regular surfing and paddleboarding.

Theater and Performing Arts
Unemployment statistics are pretty worrying, especially if you’re an actor: During any given week, more than 90 percent of actors are out of work. (Of course, this doesn’t count those working as temps, nannies, and waiters.) You can try to beat the odds with the “Crash Course MBA Weekend” at the Savvy Actor in midtown. Performers will learn how to brand and package themselves in order to land more jobs.

If you’ve sashayed your way through all the ballet, modern, and tap you can stand, you can swap your flats for more perilous footwear at StripXpertease in midtown. The studio specializes in lap dancing and floor work, promising to teach you moves as diverse as “the V, the For Love, and the Swing.” The studio also offers “Stripper Strength: Sexy Samba” and “Stripper Strength: Booty Jiggle ‘N’ Pop.” Six-inch heels recommended.

In a late letter, Edgar Allen Poe wrote, “Literature is the most noble of professions. In fact, it is about the only one fit for a man.” If you’d like to take Poe at his word, the NYC Department of Parks offers free weekly writing classes adjacent to Poe’s former home on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. Every Friday from 1:30 to 3 p.m., the visitor’s center hosts classes in fiction and nonfiction taught by established writers. And we have it on good authority that no heart beats beneath the floorboards.

Ah, the pleasures of summer in the city — the backyard parties, the Central Park picnics, the beer garden nights, the public pool days. But how can you enjoy it if you’re stuck inside, trying desperately to start your magnum opus? Happily, NYU‘s “Summer Intensive in Creative Writing” promises to pack a semester’s worth of writing instruction into just two weeks. Study poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in small classes with well-known writers.