Best Places To Learn Something New This Year
By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 18, 2017 7:03PM
It's never too late to try something new, right? Well, that's the premise behind the gamut of adult education classes available around the city. And that's why we've rounded up a list of some of our favorite places to try new things around Chicago. Whether your New Years resolution involves picking up a new skill or having an adventure, or you're looking for a new way to get out of the house this winter and distract yourself from current events, this list should have you covered. Did we miss a place where you love to take classes? Please let us know in the comments.
Products at the Rebuilding Exchange
The Rebuilding Exchange is a fantastic resource—part retail warehouse for reclaimed building materials, part DIY educational hub—and its Lincoln Park warehouse is worth a visit just to poke around its collection of building materials and reclaimed wood. But the shop also has a range of woodworking and DIY classes for people with crafty aspirations. Take a one-time class in building shelves or cutting boards, or a weekly class in woodworking and walk away with your very own, hand-made table or chair.
Located at 1740 W. Webster Ave.
Aloft instructor and performer Amanda Crockett works with a student on trapeze. Photo by Tyler LaRiviere/Chicagoist
Aloft Circus Arts
For a class that could really challenge you and be tons of fun, head over to this historic church-turned-circus training school in Logan Square for one of dozens of circus classes for all experience levels. You can try your hand at juggling, hula hooping, handstands, and more; and for those eager to get up in the air, the school has many classes in aerial circus acrobatics, too, including aerial fabric, trapeze, and a metal hoop called a lyra. Classes typically run for eight weeks, but there are also several one-time beginner "taster" classes to choose from. The learning curve can be steep at times, especially as you begin to build strength and body awareness, but this writer is now practically addicted to these fun and challenging classes.
Located at 3324 W. Wrightwood Ave.
Photo: The Plant
Some are looking to urban farming and hydroponics as a solution to the problems embedded in America's food system—you can become part of a movement and learn something new at The Plant, a vertical food grower located in a Back-of-the-Yards warehouse. The plant offers one-time and recurring classes in aquaponics. Time your visit right and you could also take a tour of the warehouse space and check out the Saturday farmers market. Upton, we're not in the Jungle anymore.
Located at 1400 W. 46th St.
Seasoned writers and aspiring storytellers alike can find the help they need to take their craft to the next level at Story Studio. This Ravenswood writing school and its teachers have deep ties to Chicago's writing and live lit performance communities and can help get you started and tapped into a network of like-minded writers to keep you motivated. Upcoming classes include memoir-writing, poetry, "novel in a year," and the aptly-titled "How to be a Writer."
Located at 4043 N. Ravenswood Ave.
Hyde Park School of Dance
The Hyde Park School of Dance offers ballet, modern, jazz and hip hop dance classes for all ages. Adults of all levels can drop in to mixed-level classes—just make sure you wear some loose-fitting, flowing clothes to class.
Located at 5650 S. Woodlawn Ave.
Photo: Spudnik Press Cooperative
You couldn't ask for a more welcoming environment to get your printmaking ambitions in gear. Learn screenprinting, letterpress, calligraphy, polymer and book-binding in this West Town art studio. Classes run in multi-week sessions, but if you see something you like that isn't offered right now, we recommend trying to get in some private lessons with Spudnik's instructors.
Located at 1821 W. Hubbard St.
Lillstreet Art Center
This North Side art school and studio space is chock full of interesting art classes in a variety of artistic mediums. Learn ceramics, book arts, metal-smithing and more in a friendly setting among other beginner artists, or get really specific with some of Lillstreet's specialized classes in tile making, enameling, embroidery—you name it, and for the most part, they've got it.
Located at 4401 N. Ravenswood Ave.
Photo: Big City Swing
Big City Swing
Beginner social dance classes can be a great way to meet people, stay active (especially in the winter!) and acquire some rhythm. Thankfully, Big City Swing has a rotating selection of multi-week swing dancing and Lindy Hop classes for beginners on up to seasoned social dancers. Jump right in to classes, or pop in for an hour-long beginner class before the monthly First Fridays dance in their Fulton Market loft space. This event is a ton of fun and the place is usually packed with people who would be happy to show you some moves.
Located at 1012 W. Randolph St.
The Second City
New York City’s Upright Citizens Brigade—which started in the Windy City, mind you—may get more ink at this very second, but Chicago’s iconic The Second City, along with iO, still represents the gold standard of amateur-to-comedy-pro pipelines. Rather than coast on laurels, The Second City is always commendably tinkering with its “yes, and” outreach, offering improv for actors; improv express; wellness improv programs for people with anxiety, dementia and other ailments; and most recently, Mid-Life Crisis, for “those whose age may be more mature than their sense of humor,” which premiered in 2016. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of its programs for writing, theatre, storytelling, directing, etc., etc.
Located at 1608 N. Wells 4th floor.
Of course, you can’t go wrong studying improv at the school that was founded by the originators of improv as we know it, Del Close and Charna Halpern. The pair most famously developed The Harold, a long-form signature that has (rightfully) become de rigueur at improv workshops the world over; and where better to learn it than its home turf? Classes—whose famous comedy-world alumni are too many to hazard a start— span improve, writing and musical improve, with elective and workshops available.
iO is located at 1501 N. Kingsbury St.
via The Chopping Block
It's almost a foodie cliche at this point to tell you to take the Chopping Block's knife skills class, but that's because it's so amazing. Available at both the Merchandise Mart and Lincoln Square locations, this class will drill into you the basics of knife selection, safety, and use. You'll chop a ton of different kinds of veggies and learn the difference between a julienne and a matchstick. And all of it for just $50. Plus, once you've learned how to use the knife, their other classes are also great.
Located at theMART, 222 West Merchandise Mart Plaza #107
Chicago Hot Glass
Want to try something really unique? Head to Chicago's public glassblowing studio for a 30 minute class on how to blow glass. It's a tiny bit scary (and they warn you not to wear flammable clothes!) but it's one of the few times you'll get to experience this fun craft outside of a college art class. For the more intense and interested, there's an 8-week course where you'll really learn the art of glass blowing. Keep an eye out around the holidays, as there are often special classes for Valentine's day and Christmas.
Located at 1250 N. Central Park Ave.
Peterson Garden Project Community Cooking School
We've loved the Peterson Garden Project forever, but we were especially excited when they took over the cooking school inside the Broadway Armory. They host a huge array of different classes and programs, from food swaps and composting sessions to classes on how to can and pickle things from your garden. Check out the whole schedule and find the right class for you.
Located at 6306 North Broadway.
Via the Hyde Park Art Center
Hyde Park Art Center
Anyone can draw! That's the ethos behind the Hyde Park Art Center's similarly-named introductory classes in drawing, painting, sewing, collage, printmaking and more. The daytime and evening classes are meant to fit into an adult's busy schedule, and can help budding artists of all experience levels get back into their medium or pick up a new one.
Old Town School of Folk Music
With Byrds and Andrew Bird among this six-decade-old institution’s former students and teachers, the Old Town School of Folk Music carries as deep and wide an influence as a teaching space as it does performance venue. Sadly, they no longer offer the circuit-bending workshop I literally turned into a soldering mess (perhaps a good thing), but you can go deep on damn near any organic instrument under the cosmos, and in a dizzying variety of styles. From ukulele to dulcimer, spanning Middle Eastern through Pop the possibilities—and instructor expertise—is endless. Easy aside, there’s a lot more than Wiggleworms.
Located at 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. and 909 W. Armitage Ave.
Open Shop nights at this much-loved bike shop, part of West Town Bikes, in Humboldt Park are a great way to develop your basic bike maintenance skills with plenty of guidance, expertise, spare parts and tools at hand. But it’s the build-a-bike classes that sets the shop apart: over eight weekly classes, three hours per session, the course starts from the patch-and-plug basics and graduates through truing, headset overhauls, hub replacement and everything else you could possibly want to know about keeping your cycle up to speed year round.
Located at 2459 W. Division St.
via Sprout Home Chicago
Sprout Home Terrarium Class
Entering Sprout Home's gorgeous West Town store is like visiting a garden oasis, especially in Chicago's colder months. You can bring a piece of that oasis home with you by signing up for one of their regular terrarium building classes. The fee covers the cost of the basic materials, set up, and lesson, plus a couple of plants.
Located at 745 N. Damen Ave.
(The Original) Drunk History with Bill Savage
Northwestern English department professor and brother to sex-advice columnist Dan, Bill Savage has also long moonlighted at Newberry Library, heading up a variety of frequently local-interest-focused seminars. Don’t judge, but our favorites always somehow end up being the booze-related courses. (See upcoming examples Before Capone: Chicago Saloon Culture 1890-1920 and Thinking (and Drinking) with Hamilton: Tavern Culture and the American Revolution). If anyone else grasps the nexus between Chicago, drinks, history and politics— with the side bonus of being an expert raconteur—we haven’t met them.
Located at 60 W. Walton St.