The East Bay is an epicenter for art, as much as – or even more so – than the Creative Capital. But beyond just galleries, studios, and museums to visit, you can get in on the fun yourself through the plethora of classes offered by local artists and makers. Here are some to get you started.
You’re probably familiar with Bristol Art Museum’s exhibits, but did you know you can also make your own art there? BAM features a large classroom supporting an equally large roster of creative courses: painting in acrylic, watercolor, and oils; working with clay and ceramics; and drawing in colored pencil. They also offer kids camps, and one- to two-day specialty workshops, to name a few. These are peppered with lectures from artists and curators, live art demos, concerts by Roger Williams University, and even an Art Lovers Book Club. 10 Wardwell Street, Bristol.
The Collaborative is a lynchpin in the East Bay arts community. They’re a gallery and retail space for local artists, host spoken word and music performances like the Warren Folks Festival, and, most recently, developed the Warren Arts Academy, which offers free – yes, free, thanks to generous funding – classes to the public. The Academy was born from the desire to “be more than just an art gallery,” says Executive Director Uriah Donnelly, “and to continue to create art education opportunities, especially for young artists,” so they’ve partnered with Makers RI over the April school break. “Classes for kids are important to continue the arts education that they may, or may not, be getting in school,” explains Donnelly, while their adult programs let busy grown-ups learn a new skill – or expand one they already have – in a single afternoon or evening. 498 Main Street, Warren.
Nestled inside a historic 19th century home is Four Corners Arts Center, the heart of Tiverton’s arts community. Amongst the exhibits, concerts, outdoor dance, sculpture, theater, and events, discover a full schedule of classes for kids and adults. Learn new skills from local artists like stop motion animation, faux glass sculpture, or zodiac constellation art. “Amazing things happen when creative minds gather,” begins arts administrator Desiree Brunton, “so we also offer collaborative workspace for art projects, marketing promotion, and other resources to the arts community.” 3852 Main Road, Tiverton.
Lynne DeBeer, lifelong creative, lives and breathes both art and teaching, and it manifests in her art school Inside/Out Studio & Workshops. Sign kiddos up for afterschool art classes to learn drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, bookmaking, and printmaking, plus explore color and famous artists. For curious and crafty adults, DeBeer also hosts painting and drawing basics and open studio sessions with a live model. 235 High Street, 2nd floor, Bristol.
In 2003, a small group of artists formed the Portsmouth Arts Guild, which not only offers exhibit opportunities, but also education. Today, members from the local arts community teach inside the rented parish house attached to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, which doubles as a gallery. Aside from spring sessions in sculptural assemblage, collage, drawing, and painting techniques, the Guild offers unique lessons in alcohol ink, mandala making, and instruction on how to mimic a famous artist’s methods. Open studio hours are available for members and non-members to work and learn together. 2679 East Main Road, Portsmouth.
It’s hard to believe that this idyllic waterfront property is connected to the bustling RISD campus in downtown Providence. Tillinghast Farm was built in 1820 and RISD obtained land rights in 1948; for 72 years it’s been a part of both the RISD and East Bay community – though many locals might not realize it’s so close. “It’s a beautiful place for art making,” says John Murphy, associate director of marketing for RISD Continuing Education. Find spring courses in drawing, experimental landscape with mixed media, landscape photography, and a weeklong camp for kids exploring painting, sculpture, photography, and costume-making. Another difference between the two campuses? “Parking,” says Murphy with a chuckle. 231 Nayatt Road, Barrington.
Mudstone Studios has come a long way in 13 years. “Back then, we only had a kiln, two tables, and a couple of poor excuses for potter’s wheels,” remembers owner Ellen Blomgren with a laugh. Today, the Cutler Mills ceramics studio has over 4,000 square feet of work space and plenty of equipment for novice and expert artists alike. Find classes in pottery, hand-building, and sculpting, plus specialized workshops in specific techniques, glazing, lighting, and more. Mudstone’s most popular class? “Beginner’s wheel-throwing with Ian Buchbinder on Wednesday nights – it fills every session!” 30 Cutler Street #129, Warren.
Weirdgirl Creations Pottery Studio started 40 years ago as a handmade, funky gift, furniture, and pottery shop, until owner Meg Jones added the working studio a decade later. Today, find rows upon rows of shelves lined with blank ceramic projects and an equally impressive class list, running the gamut from clay handprints and pet paw impressions, to summer afternoon art camps for kids, to a private “try it” wheel throwing class and paint your own pottery. Register for a class or drop in to paint – though you might be overwhelmed by your options! 33 Kent Street, Barrington.
You’ve heard of classes in painting, poetry, and pottery – but stone carving? Enter Laura Travis, a master carver who fell in love with the ancient art while visiting Ireland in the ‘80s. Since learning it herself, Travis has hosted workshops and classes in her Cutler Mills studio. Sign up for weekend-long workshops to get to feel what it’s like to hold a chisel, design around a piece of salvaged stone, and experiment with carving techniques. However, stone can be difficult to work with – so while no previous experience is required, patience certainly is! 30 Cutler Street #219A, Warren.
Six years ago, when Doreen Lindenburg got her hands on a 2,000-pound genuine American printmaking press, she described it as the stars aligning. After the landlord at Cutler Mills forklifted the machine into her second-story studio, and a hired team assembled it, she could officially open 7 Suns. “Anyone can print,” says Lindenburg, who acquired her BFA in the ‘80s, “and I wanted to make printmaking available to the community.” She hosts classes in monotype, relief printing, and drypoint etching (her favorite) – which utilizes needles and plexiglas. 30 Cutler Street #204, Warren.
Shaving cream and slime are just two of the not-so-typical mediums you’ll find at Makers RI, the kids’ creative space focused on “process art” and “messy play” run by art educator Erin DeThomas. “I feel like the most important thing for kids to be doing when creating is developing who they are as an artist and gaining artistic confidence,” she explains, “so all my classes are essentially child-led, which enables kids to do just that!” Makers RI offers Design Your Own Dollhouse Camp, Mom + Me workshops, Painting Parties, and pop-ups in drawing, painting, and, of course, slime! 7 Child Street, Warren.
Island Art Spot is owner Jennifer Gee’s “happy place” and it shows: turquoise floors, picture windows, a wall of inspirational quotes. “The best moment is when I have a table full of kids who are in the creative ‘zone,’ just painting and drawing and doing their thing,” says Gee. She describes her classes as “not instructional, but inspirational.” There’s weekly Messy Playdates, where parents can mingle while little ones play with sand, blocks, and Play-Doh; book readings followed by related art projects; day camps, guided drawings, and dollhouse workshops. “We’re a family art studio. It’s where we celebrate holidays and birthdays and all the days in between by coming together and creating.” Wyatt Square, 575 East Main Road, Middletown.
Colleen McFarlin and her mother Lisa Foss started with an art and sewing center in Portsmouth but saw an opportunity to break into a new market, so they moved to Bristol and expanded into retail. Today, fiber arts hub Beyond the Bolt sells modern fabrics, hosts open sew sessions, and offers private and group lessons, plus teaches classes in sewing, quilting, beading, weaving, and more in the renovated barbershop next door. “Some of our most popular classes are Quilt Block of the Month, Cork Zippered Box Pouch, and Reverse Glass Painting taught by Kim Belleavoine [from Kim’s Painted Glass],” says McFarlin. “We are hoping to create a community that comes together to learn new skills, make new friends, and encourages and empowers one another.” 500 Metacom Avenue, Unit A, Bristol.
“It’s like a sewing gym,” posits Liz Bessel, co-owner of Meraki Studio along with Kristin Meranda, referring to their new membership program, which includes lockers to store craft supplies. This is just one exciting development since the fiber arts studio opened two years ago; they’ve also moved rooms, incorporated new classes, and invested in a massive longarm machine for quilting. Bessel lists the variety of courses offered in conjunction with quilting and knitting: silk scarf workshops, dressmaking, crotchet, macramé, Japanese stitching (with Allison Wilbur), bookbinding and junk journals (with Found & Flowered), and collage. Says Meranda, “We just want people to make things and love what they’re making!” 30 Cutler Street #101B, Warren.
Traci Vaspol and Karen Katin met during the Great Rhody Yarn Crawl, where knitter Vaspol was an organizer and sewist Katin a vendor. Today, they share their respective skills at their fiber arts studio, The Stitchery; Katin oversees courses like wardrobe workshops and embroidery, while Vaspol hosts “Sock of the Season” club and knit garment how-tos. “It gives kids a chance to connect not over screens or sports,” says Katin. Vaspol adds that she’s glad to offer a chance for busy adults to meet new friends face-to-face. Sprinkled amid The Stitchery’s regular classes are special events, like the upcoming workshops in Brioche Knitting (March 15) and Pysanky eggs (April 5). While learning something new can be intimidating, both maintain the philosophy that mistakes – “happy accidents!” – are all part of the process. “Nothing has to be perfect,” they say, “it just has to be enjoyable!” 14 Potomac Road, Portsmouth.
Knit One, Quilt Too is a fiber artist’s paradise: bolts of fabric, supplies, books and kits, yarn, patterns, and more in every color. Yvonne Weiss has owned the shop and hosted classes there for six and a half years, but recently expanded into a 900-square-foot dedicated classroom. While knitting continues to be taught in the store, the new space is home to workshops in quilting, weaving, embroidery, and garment-making. “We also have a special program called Foster Forward, where we knit and quilt for teens in foster care,” adds Weiss, who, as a mom of five and a pediatrician, holds the cause close to her heart. Stay tuned for more kids programming and an online retail store. 10 Anoka Avenue, Barrington.