Adult classes in NYC: Not-for-profit art and science hubs

These innovative organizations offer adult classes that blur the lines between art, science and technology.



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Harvestworks Photograph: Courtesy Harvestworks

The rise of informal education in New York—epitomized by skill-sharing groups and community-driven organizations like Brooklyn Brainery and 3rd Ward—and the use of technology in art have led to the creation of cool learning hubs that offer adult classes on a variety of eclectic subjects, from art classes to cutting-edge audiovisual courses.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of adult classes in NYC


Founded in 1977, this cutting-edge video and audio studio helps visual artists and musicians incorporate new and evolving technologies into their work—to get the idea, check out the Harvestworks projects “Internet Psychic Phone Repair,” “Cloud.Data 2010” and “The Augmented Reality War 1812” on Governors Island through September 2. Intensive, hands-on certificate programs tailored to the individual are offered in digital audio ($3,000) and digital video ($1,800), but you may want to get your feet wet with such workshops as “Location Sounds for TV and Film” (see website for date; $150), or the online “Making Max Make Music with Markov Chains” (see website for date; $100), hands-on instruction on how to use the software program Max as a tool for algorithmic music composition.

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  1. 596 Broadway, suite 602, (at E Houston St)
More info

The Observatory

An eclectic arts group founded in 2009, the Observatory hosts lectures, workshops and shows that plumb the depths of the macabre and the occult. Among the obscure and often throwback arts and practices the organization has recently explored are the creation of a personal Wunderkammer (cabinet of curiosities)—a microcosmic collection of natural history, archaeological and geological artifacts, pieces of art, and historical or religious relics—and the contemporary relevance of summer solstice rituals. The Observatory’s trademark, though, is the Morbid Anatomy Artist Academy, a series of artsy taxidermy classes in which small dead animals (including bunnies, guinea pigs and pigeons—none of which were killed for this purpose, we’re assured) are taxidermied (skinned, fleshed and preserved), then mounted and positioned in naturalistic poses or in an anthropomorphic tableau (a chipmunk piloting a paper airplane, for example). Coming up in the series is the Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Class with Divya Anantharaman (Aug 10, Sept 15; $110), in which students create displays inspired by the works of the Victorian taxidermist (and musicologist) Walter Potter, who made the art form famous. 

  1. 543 Union St, (between Bond and Nevins Sts), 11215
More info

Pioneer Works

Housed in the 24,000-square-foot Civil War–era Pioneer Iron Works building, this creative hub was launched last year by artist Dustin Yellin. In addition to hosting exhibitions, Pioneer Works runs residencies for architects, musicians, writers, visual artists and scientists. Residents—who currently include a nanoscience expert, an artist working with found and natural objects, and a geneticist—lead lectures and workshops that explore technologies and mediums that straddle fine arts and scientific methods. Fall offerings include “Electronic Voices” (Sept 17 7–9pm; $40), which re-creates some of the experiments carried out by early sound pioneers and covers the history of sound manipulation through to the present day; “From Tesla to the Transistor” (Sept 19, 26 7–9pm; $95 plus $30 materials fee), an experiment-based class that enables students to detect, quantify and manipulate the normally invisible phenomenon of electricity; and the hands-on “Tintypes Revisited: Wet Plate Photography Circa 1859” (Dec 7, 8 10am–4:30pm; $195 plus $50 materials fee).

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  1. 159 Pioneer St, (at Imlay St)
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