Let’s be honest: When we get that most precious gift of free time, we usually opt to throw on the sweats and binge on Netflix ad nauseum. But it’s high time to break from the mundane and learn a few new skills. We know you’ve been meaning to spice up dinner, so pick up a few new recipes in a cooking class. Then try out a pottery class, and make some dinnerware to use when serving that new dish. And you can entertain the guests at your dinner party (who’ve all been dying to try your now-stellar cooking) with some improv skills. See? We just helped you become a whole new, more interesting person. (You can thank us later, like after you attend these classes and workshops.)
Yonkers Peace Pottery Studio
379 McLean Ave (646) 316-0554; www.yonkerspottery.com
As a creative oasis along McLean Avenue, Yonkers Peace Pottery Studio offers workshops and classes for adults willing to get their elbows deep in clay and work with their hands. “We offer hand-building, sculpture, and wheel-throwing instructional classes for beginner to advanced students,” says owner and manager Cori Morenberg. “For adults, we have pottery-making classes (in eight-week sessions), one-off project workshops, and private lessons.” Classes are led by experienced potters, and usually run for around two hours, with five to 10 students in each class. “Classes consist of hands-on, step-by-step instruction through various wheel-throwing and hand-building clay projects,” Morenberg says. “We teach students to not only form items from raw clay, but to take the piece all the way through painting, glazing, and firing.”
And the studio’s “Sip and Shape” nights give participants the chance to work on a focused pottery project while sipping on BYOB refreshments (because nothing gets the creative juices flowing more than a glass of Pinot Grigio). But for those in need of a more extensive experience, there is the six-week term, in which students use studio equipment to make mugs, bowls, plates, and more.
Classes from $150; eight-week session $250
Croton Academy of Arts
8 Old Post Rd South, Croton-on-Hudson (914) 862-0988; www.crotonacademy.com
Are your kids sick and tired of hearing your standup routine? Get a new shtick at Croton Academy of Arts’ adult improv classes. Professional improviser and comedian Rory Scholl instructs the weekly, hour-and-a-half “adult improv intensive” class, which culminates in a performance at the end of the four-week session. The class covers the structure and fundamentals of improv comedy, focusing on specific performance skills. Class begins with a warm-up to help get the body and mind receptive and sharp for performance, followed by in-class exercises in which students work on improv acting techniques, from building characters to learning how to create an onstage environment through the imagination. “By the time you’re an adult, you haven’t played or done make-believe games in years,” says Co-Director Catherine Riedel. “But when you come here, that’s really all it’s about—using your imagination—and it really is awesome.”
Adult improv classes are made up of 12 students, all ranging in skill level and background. “We have a very diverse group of
people in class,” says Co-Director Myrlin Valerio. “There are certainly people who have acted before and maybe haven’t acted in 10 years, but there are also people who are just curious and want to come and laugh.” Valerio and Riedel are no strangers to the world of improv and performance: Valerio is a professionally trained actress with 15 years of improv teaching experience, while Riedel has taught acting, comedy, and movement to adults and kids throughout the last 20 years.
Both veterans credit improv classes with enhancing public speaking skills and building confidence, but more importantly, they find improv to be a sort of therapeutic outlet. “Most adults don’t get to laugh or play freely during the day, and they come here and we laugh at ourselves, at each other, and when we screw up—it’s okay,” Valerio says. “It’s such a relaxed, fun, hour and a half that it can be really cathartic after a stressful day.”
Classes from $100 for four-week session
Bullseye Glass Resource Center
115 Hoyt Ave, Mamaroneck (914) 835-3794; www.bullseyeglass.com
Forget Pinterest-inspired projects or at-home DIYs; hone your crafting abilities with a glass-cutting and fusing workshop at Bullseye Glass Resource Center in Mamaroneck. Opened in October 2013, Bullseye is an artistic glass facility with a retail store, art gallery, and instructional studio. Begin with a two-and-a-half-hour introductory class and, after mastering the basics, work your way up to more complex classes and multi-day workshops. “The most popular introductory class is ‘First Glass Fusing,’ which teaches the very basics of glass cutting and the fundamentals of glass fusing,” says manager Michele Gotfredson. “Students design an eight-inch by eight-inch plate; they have a wonderful array of colored glass to choose from, and the results are always fun to see.” Introductory classes are limited to 16 students; completed glass pieces are fired in a kiln after class and available for pickup at a later date. Led by professionally trained and experienced artists, project-based classes focus on the creation of necklaces, coasters, plates, and tabletops. Multi-day workshops are dedicated to making small samples and learning various techniques that students can use going forward in their glass-shaping journey.
Classes from $125
Sur La Table
Sur La Table Ridge Hill: 1 Ridge Hill Blvd, Yonkers (914) 652-9647
Sur La Table at The Westchester: 125 Westchester Ave, #2805A, White Plains (914) 220-9810; www.surlatable.com
If your takeout menu collection occupies more than one drawer, then it may be time to invest in some quality cooking lessons. Operating one of the largest hands-on avocational cooking-class programs in the country, Sur La Table serves up cooking lessons even for the culinarily challenged.
Both the Yonkers and White Plains Sur La Table locations offer hands-on and demonstration classes, which run for about two hours. Led by classically trained resident chefs, hands-on classes put 16 students in the heat of the kitchen, as they prepare menu items and practice culinary techniques. Overwhelmed at the thought of julienning and sautéing right away? Grab a pen and notebook for a demonstration class, and watch as a resident chef prepares a dish while narrating the process and demonstrating techniques. “We have a very wide range of attendees in our culinary classes,” says Sur La Table spokeswoman Stephanie Bleiberg. “From young couples who are just learning how to cook, older couples who love cooking together, novice chefs, home cooks, and just folks looking to have a fun night out.”
Technique-oriented classes give students the chance to sharpen their kitchen skills in “Learn to Cut Like a Pro” and “10 Skills Every Chef Should Know,” while “Date Night”-themed classes showcase romantic recipes. Expand your global palate with regionally focused classes; perfect the art of the macaroon in “Festive French Macaroons,” or work with flavors from south of the border in a Tamale Workshop. Say arrivederci to pizza delivery and try “Perfect Pizza from Scratch,” in which instructors divulge all the secrets to making an authentic artisanal pizza from learning how to use pizza stones and peels, to making dough from scratch.
Classes from $69
Pelham Art Center
155 Fifth Ave, Pelham (914) 738-2525 www.pelhamartcenter.org
Pelham Art Center’s classes—in everything from painting and drawing to digital arts to mixed media collage and memoir writing—give adults with a wide range of skills the chance to let out their inner artist. “I think when people start to think about doing something with their free time, they really come back to painting,” says Executive Director Lynn Honeysett. “Most people are fearful when they start, but our classes are open to all abilities, and the teachers deal with everyone at their own level.” Classes are offered on a semester basis with seven sessions in total, with class size limited to 12 to ensure individual instruction from a staff of qualified artists.
Thursday nights at PAC are reserved for “Girls’ Night Out,” a series of two- to three-week varied workshops (with wine and appetizers) focusing on projects that include hat-making, abstract painting, mosaics, and floral design. “For those pressed on time, Girls’ Night Out lets you jump into a class and see if you like it,” Honeysett says. “People feel like they can umbrella this under a social event, go with their girlfriends, and just feel relaxed about it.” The initial response to Girls’ Night Out was so positive that groups who attended the event together requested special get-togethers. “We’ve had groups of people approach us and say ‘look, we all want to learn how to do floral arranging,’ so we started these special events where we find an instructor, schedule a date, and plan as many sessions as they want,”
Classes from $262; workshops from $59