Very few cities have the amount of great art that we’ve got right here in NYC. New York has the single largest concentration of galleries anywhere for one thing, and for another, has some of the finest museums in the world. And, as regular art fans know, this surfeit of artistic treasures can be inspiring. Indeed, you may have even considered taking up art yourself as you’ve wandered through the various collections at The Met, MoMA and the Guggenheim. Well, we say go for it! After all, why spend all of you time just looking at works of art, or taking selfies with them, when you can discover you inner Picasso or Van Gogh? The trick is figuring out which mediums appeal to you (maybe it’s more than one) and where you can learn to master them. Well, we have just the list you need to find the best art classes in NYC for every taste and technique, from painting and sculpture to ceramics and silk-screen printing.
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Best art classes in NYC
Whether you’re a ceramics buff or just need a hands-on outlet, stop by this Bushwick community spot known for its pottery lessons. For starters, you’ll get mighty familiar with using a slab machine to roll out clay and learn basic shaping methods. While in the space, look out for the on-site meditation room, the lower level for carpentry and millwork, and the café that hosts pop-up dinners, gallery exhibitions and other events.
One of the top professional art schools in the country, SVA, as it’s also known, offers dozens of continuing education courses in every imaginable subject related to contemporary art. And not just how-to classes in painting, etc: There’s also classes in art history, critical studies, video and even making art using genetic engineering!
In recent years, there’s been a huge resurgence of interest in 1980s-style risograph printing, a speedy way to screenprint layers of paint-like ink in order to create vibrant designs for posters, comics and illustrations. In 2011, designer Gonzalo Guerrero opened a riso studio in his apartment to share the undersung craft. “Riso really allows you to dissociate and focus in,” says Guerrero. “Every person comes into the studio for a different reason, but everyone gains a sense of inspiration after working on a project from beginning to end. Maybe it even helps them feel less stuck in other parts of their lives.” To get your feet wet, opt for the three-hour intro workshop, which provides a personal one-on-one session with Guerrero. After that, you’ll be ready to book studio time to hash out your own designs. The best part? The space is a sanctuary from NYC crowds—no more than five people are allowed in at any one time.
This community studio and workshop is all about teaching silk-screen printing for both fine art and design. Intro courses take you through the basics of creating stencils (both hand-cut and photo-sensitized), mixing inks and the proper methods for printing with a squeegee. The courses include specialized instruction for printing T-shirts, wallpaper and stationary, plus hi-speed printing using commercial four-color processes.
If you're looking for a no-bullshit painting class to take, Lower East Side art studio Dirty Hands offers the real deal: Pro artists teach the workshops, the materials are high-quality, and cool, contemporary techniques are emphasized. As its site states: “All levels are welcome, and the only thing you’re not going to do is paint a fucking sunset.” Be sure to try the Tape Shit course, in which you’ll learn to make perfect straight lines using tape and matte medium gel, just like bona fide art-school students. Then, you can proudly hang your final product on the wall.
One of the most venerable institutions of its type, The Art Students League of New York has been around since 1875. Some of the notable artists who have passed through there include Jackson Pollock, Norman Rockwell and Georgia O'Keeffe, and you can, too! Classes in painting, sculpture and drawing teach fundamentals from sketching live models to the finer points of color theory.
Greenpoint seems to attract arty folks, and this design haven completes the vibe with cool creative classes where you can work with your hands. Try our their constantly-changing workshops that pop up every month like screen printing, riso printing and ceramics.
Perhaps the oldest art school in the United States, the National Academy School opened in 1825, and while its storied history might suggest and emphasis on tradition, the courses offered—in every conceivable medium—are totally up to the minute.
If a name like Painting Lounge sounds to you like a place that is totally chill, well you’re absolutely right! Painting Lounge encourages BYOB, as long as it’s not hard liquor (they even provide cups, corkscrews and a fridge to keep your brewskis cold). The classes consists of professional artists taking you through a step-by-step process of replicating a featured painting every night. It could a Picasso or a Van Gogh, but there’s no right or wrong way to paint, just a relaxed, hassle-free environment to get in touch with your artistic side. Think of it as the visual-art equivalent of karaoke.
It’s hard to think of making pottery without recalling that orgasmic scene between Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in Ghost. But let’s face it there is something sensual about molding wet clay as it spins around on a wheel, so if pottery is an itch you’ve got to scratch, you can’t do better than this Long Island City ceramic studio. Learn the basics of throwing, glazing and firing a pot in BrickHouse’s stress-free atmosphere, which welcomes everyone regardless of skill level.
New York’s best-known community center is famous for its lectures, concerts and talks, but art classes are also part of the program, and include everything from art appreciation to watercolor.