Where to find informal, dip-a-toe-in adult arts education

Arts / Article

Nonprofit, discipline-specific organizations (like the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Northern Clay Center, Textile Center, Highpoint Center for Printmaking, etc…), arts colleges and universities — these are the places I suspect most first think of when they’re in the market for classes and other educational arts opportunities for adults, and rightly so. But what if you’re not ready to commit to a class? Art-making activities for kids and youth are everywhere, but short-duration, inexpensive, how-to arts workshops geared for grown-ups aren’t quite as abundant. This is a time when it really pays to know your mom-and-pop arts retailers.

Independent art and craft supply shops, in particular, are wonderful resources for quick-hit, skill-specific arts education. If you’re looking to dip a toe in the water before committing to more formal art class instruction, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Wet Paint’s “Try It!” events: Every Thursday evening, from 5:30 to 7:30, this beloved independent art supplies purveyor on Grand Avenue offers patrons a bit of instruction on a given technique and a chance to give a few related products a whirl. Many of these try-it-before-you-buy-it nights are informal, self-guided affairs, but the shop also frequently invites guest artists to come — often the very instructors who teach formal classes elsewhere. If you’re interested in the subject of the evening’s workshop — mixed-media collage, calligraphy, pigment sticks, quill pens — these afford a terrific opportunity to get a taste before you decide to pursue more in-depth instruction.

The next “Try It!” event is this Thursday, April 5; learn how to tear and fold paper (particularly useful for those interested in printmaking and book arts) in a workshop led by two artists from Highpoint Center for Printmaking, Zac Adams-Bliss and Josh Winkler. Wet Paint, 1684 Grand Ave., St Paul, Minn. Admission is free and open to the public.

On a related note: there’s another Wet Paint-sponsored event coming up soon, “Letterpress Poster Plunge.” This one-day workshop presented by Big Table Studio and Bill Moran of Hamilton Wood Type is good for newbies interested in trying their hand at wood type and poster design, as well as seasoned printmakers who want to refresh their skills on a variety of blocks and letterpress equipment.

Letterpress Poster Plunge” is April 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Big Table Studio, 375 Wabasha St. North, St. Paul, Minn. The cost of the workshop is $75; registration is required.

Another retail arts hub across the river, too valuable not to mention here: Crafty Planet in Minneapolis is a fantastic resource for Twin Cities crafters working at all levels of experience with a wide variety of techniques and materials. From informal “Craft n’ Chat” evenings to inexpensive tutorials on sewing, knitting, embroidery and project-specific workshops (e.g. “Sew a Tote” or “Kanzashi Fabric Flowers”), you can’t do better.

Crafty Planet has a number of events, classes and workshops coming up; get details, dates and times on the website: http://www.craftyplanet.com/events.html, 2833 Johnson St. N.E., Minneapolis, Minn.