Recently, Condé Nast named Memphis one of the “23 Best Places to Go in 2023,” highlighting its downtown revitalization, music, and culinary art scene. But there is also a vibrant visual arts community here, which includes the Brooks Museum, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, South Main Arts District and other galleries, and a number of local art and craft festivals like River Arts and Pink Palace. Digging down one more level, it was eye-opening to discover the range of options around town for adults looking for art classes.
Five in One Social Club
Located on Summer Avenue, Five in One Social Club has the workshop motto “Kindergarten for Grown Folks,” and they want everyone to give creativity a try.
Fifteen years ago, newcomers to Memphis, Alice Laskey-Castle and her husband Michael Andrews, brought their installation gallery to Crosstown and felt very welcomed by the art community in town. Originally the gallery included an artist work area and artist residency; they have evolved into a workshop and retail store (formerly five offerings at one spot, hence their name), keeping their vibe as an artist hangout, but with the idea that you don’t need to be an artist to be welcomed there.
In their Crosstown space, Laskey-Castle established an artist meet-up on Monday nights. Everyone was welcome, and brought their own projects to work on–a way of generating traffic for the gallery space and helping people to feel more included in the process. According to Laskey-Castle, eventually people started donating things “or leaving things behind, maybe is a better way to put it”— magazines, extra paint, scraps — and at some point in that first year, Tommy Kha, one of their favorite Memphis artists said, “‘you have to get people to come here, this is so cool.’ He brought his button maker, we made buttons, and then after that for six weeks everywhere I went people asked me, ‘where are the buttons’? That got us thinking.”
Grants from Crosstown Arts and MEMShop expanded their capabilities and helped them to move to Broad Avenue in 2013 and open a retail store where they sell homemade goods by local artists. Finally in their current evolution on Summer Avenue, where they moved in 2018, they focus on workshops and retail. Laskey-Castle says the workshops have become an art project of sorts for her. “So maybe you don’t feel like you belong in a museum or gallery. I really do think that people have that creativity in them. You may not have the skills, you may not be in touch with it, but I think it’s important in all of our lives to know how to play or find that space. It can be super rewarding. We wanted everyone to feel like they belong.”
The workshop space aligns with their “Kindergarten for Grown Folks” mantra, mission, theme, and mojo. They reused light fixtures and other materials from the former Schwinn bike shop of 1953 to form a large, airy space where they upped their workshop game to be more about creating together. “These workshops were not ever meant to be a master class in a craft, that’s not what we’re here for. We are here to help you get in touch with your creativity, to have a good time, to try out a new craft or technique that maybe you haven’t done before.” Over the years, Laskey-Castle has added more complicated classes like stained glass, but she says that “kindergarten for grown folks” is still the perfect way to describe that. “I love it as a descriptor, it breaks the ice. People giggle a little bit when you explain it that way. It takes the pressure off… You’re not going to come here and make something Instagram perfect, because nobody does that the first time you try something. We’re here to get in touch with our creativity. It’s a tool, it’s a muscle, we have to work at it.”
Workshop offerings include printmaking, marbling, making glasses from wine bottles (a favorite and perfect intro class), stained glass, mending, rug-braiding, craft supply swap, wood-burning projects, button-making, and more. Workshop offerings are constantly changing. Winter and summer are their high seasons. Check out their website for workshop listings and sign-up instructions.
Visit fiveinonesocialclub.com/workshop-calendar for more information.
Located in a former train maintenance building near Cooper Young, Arrow Creative offers a variety of art classes and programming. Formally begun in 2017, Abby Phillips and Dorothy Collier collaborated to combine an interest in promoting Memphis Fashion Week and continuing the legacy of the Memphis College of Arts. Arrow Creative offers a variety of programming and works to help build community for creatives and artists with 16 in-house artist studios, providing space for fashion designers, graphic designers, painters, musicians, jewelry makers, and creatives of all kinds, where artists can create, sell, and teach.
In addition, Arrow Creative offers classes with the goal of making art accessible for everyone. Nyale Pieh, Programs Manager, and Marley Wisby, Programs Assistant, say they are working to reach out to different communities about art class offerings. They aim to make classes and programming for every age group, every level, beginner to intermediate, whatever the need is.
Wisby says of a recent embroidery class, “which is an intimidating beast to begin with, we were able to break it down into something that’s manageable. We start at that base level so that when you leave the class you can continue on your own, without need for an instructor. It breaks down the fear of creating that I think a lot of people have.”
Recent class offerings include painting, candlemaking, weaving, writing, photography, and fashion design. Pieh says they bring in teachers from the community or in-house. We have a network of teachers that we’ve developed so we can bring people in to teach anything and everything. Whatever we hear a need for, we’ll find a way to make a class.”
Visit arrowcreative.org/creativeclasses for more information.
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
Founded in Overton Park in 1916, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art will move to a new building on the riverfront slated for a 2026 opening. The Brooks has always encouraged art education classes. Kathy Dumlao, Director of Education and Interpretation, says that providing more opportunities for visitors of all ages to exercise their creativity will be key to the new museum, including opportunities to make their own art. “There will be two studio spaces that will be used for school programs during the school day, but we hope to also use those spaces in the afternoons/ evenings for adult classes and for family programs on the weekends. Additionally, our family interactive space will include art-making stations – something that our current space isn’t able to offer – which we hope will attract a multigenerational audience.”
In 2023, they plan to continue their partnership begun in 2021 with Creative Aging to offer artmaking workshops for senior adults. “We have offered several different classes so far (painting, printmaking, and sculpture). We currently have an exhibition of the works that were made in the most recent class on view in our education gallery,” Dumlao says. “In January, we’re working with Creative Aging to offer a watercolor class, led by Susan Maakestad, and we’ll offer at least one other workshop in partnership with Creative Aging in 2023.” Their mission with adult classes is to provide opportunities to learn something new, which could include improving existing skills or experimenting with new ones. “It’s important for the adults in our workshops to leave with a sense of accomplishment and pride in what they’ve done.” Hosting the classes in the museum provides the benefit of viewing works of art during their classes and gives adults a chance to connect with others with similar interests. “And on the most basic level, we want the classes to be fun!”
Visit brooksmuseum.org/visit/events for more information.
The Metal Museum
Situated on the riverfront south of downtown Memphis, The Metal Museum is the only museum in North America devoted to the art and craft of fine metalwork. Connor Dyer, Museum Educator, says that the blacksmithing and other classes offered here are unique in that they are connected to an institution where the mission is to preserve and teach the skills to others and to preserve the craft. It is the reason the museum was founded in 1979. The Metal Museum offers blacksmithing, casting, welding, enameling, fine jewelry, and other classes from October through May. Usually their most popular classes are blacksmithing and welding. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to strap on a welding helmet, grab a welding gun (taking all the precautions of course), and give it a go? They also allow people to observe the work happening in the foundry spaces and speak to blacksmiths and other artists as they are working.
The Metal Museum will expand to Memphis College of Art’s Rust Hall as part of a two-to-three-year project transforming the space into a museum and metals studio, while maintaining its current space on the riverfront. The new space in Overton Park will be a more centralized location, including a foundry and smithy, and will essentially have two areas for that work including two educational areas. A few upcoming events at the Metal Museum include “Blacksmithing for WomXn,” April 8-9, 2023, a two-day introductory class for women, trans people, and non-binary people, and “We Are Here,” June 4- September 10, 2023, a juried exhibition that highlights queer metalsmiths.
Visit metalmuseum.org/classes for more information.
These are just a few of the adult art options around town. Get out there and get your hands dirty!