“I think a lot of older people … finally realize that learning is fun,” said Gus Pekara, director of the OKC Downtown College. “When you’re going to college and you’re pursuing a degree, you have all these requirements to check off a list. But when you take it because you want to take it — no other reason — it’s fun.”
Whether that course is hands-on, like the culinary classes at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, or a bit more traditional, like learning a new language, going back to school simply for personal enrichment opens up a whole new world of learning.
The OKC Downtown College, a consortium of five metro colleges housed at the downtown library, offers both for-credit and non-credit courses.
The for-credit courses are available to those who just want to sign up for fun, but they must enroll. Luckily, Pekara said doing so is simple.
“If they’re taking just a few credit hours, and they’re not going after a degree, it’s a very quick process,” he said.
This summer, OKC Downtown College offers criminal justice and screenwriting classes, plus personal enrichment courses. Classes start as early as June 6.
So why take a class you may not ever do anything with?
“It can be very fun. My wife and I, quite a few years ago, took a class on the Italian Renaissance at Oklahoma City Community College. We took it totally for enjoyment,” Pekara said, noting they followed it up with their own study abroad to Italy.
It’s not all traditional classes, however. The Downtown College also offers dance, Pilates and Zumba.
Classes get even more nontraditional (unless you were a music major) with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic’s Be the Orchestra, a beginner’s class for violin, cello, viola and bass.
“They don’t even need to know how to read notes. It’s easier if they do, but they will learn everything,” said Katie Kucharski, education coordinator for the OKC Philharmonic and the Orchestra League.
Fees for the eight-week class include instrument rental, bass excepted. The beginner class is held in the fall, with an intermediate session following in the spring. It attracts all ages, from those in their 20s all the way up to their 70s.
“They come from all over, all different types of people,” Kucharski said.
“Some people have played, but some people have just always wanted to play. It’s hard to go back to square one of learning and not being good at it — no one’s good at first; that’s where (instructor) Dorothy (Hays) really paves the way and gives them a comfort level, but she also has expectations of them.”
Things heat up at Francis Tuttle, where noncredit culinary workshops bring in wannabe cooks.
“Every one of those fill up sometimes a month ahead of time,” said James Mansell, coordinator of the culinary and language classes.
Those hands-on sessions include everything from gourmet vegetarian meals to Filipino cuisine. With subjects like sushi, European artisan breads and Indian cuisine, classes start tomorrow and run through August.
“You get to watch (the meal) being prepared or you help prepare it, and then everybody sits down and eats,” Mansell said.
Language (and) arts
Keep meaning to finally learn Spanish? Quit making excuses. Noncredit language classes are offered at OKC Downtown College and Francis Tuttle.
“They deal not just with the language, but with the culture,” Pekara said.
Besides Spanish, Downtown College also offers courses in Chinese and Italian, which he said have been growing in popularity, plus French and German. Summer Spanish classes start next week.
In addition to the standard Spanish, French and German, Francis Tuttle also teaches Hebrew and Arabic. Beginning Hebrew starts June 13; intermediate classes in the other languages run throughout the season.
Francis Tuttle also has a variety of creative arts classes — things like crafts, drawing and writing.
“These are classes people take for fun,” said Karen Henderson, creative arts classes coordinator. “Some of them turn them into careers, but the biggest number of people take them for avocational reasons.”
Henderson said she chooses classes based on student evaluations. A lot of the resulting courses are one-night workshops that are very hands-on.
“We have a class that’s really popular, called Beads for Beginners, and they learn how to bead necklaces and bracelets,” she said.
That is held twice this summer.
Tomorrow, there’s a napkin-folding class.
“You can wet your feet in a lot of different things,” Henderson said. “You can learn something and decide if you really want to get into it.”
At the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, adults can wet not only their feet, but a brush. The museum’s popular art classes span a variety of media, from painting, drawing and photography to glass, clay and fiber arts.
“It seems that our photography classes fill up pretty quickly,” said Neely Simms of the education department.
Most classes are one-day workshops, but multiweek or back-to-back courses are offered throughout the summer. These go beyond the standard oil painting; look for Japanese bookbinding, camera obscura and the rather intriguing photopoetics.
“You definitely leave with a sense of accomplishment. And it’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone,” Simms said. “We’ve had students produce a lot of great artwork.”
Paint and play
In Edmond, Paint Your Art Out has brought art to amateurs since December 2009. Co-owner Renee Deakle wanted to create a space where kids and adults could spend a couple of hours and leave with their own painting. Most times, class members reproduce a piece of the local artist leading the class.
In the evening, adults get the run of the place. Bring friends, snacks and drinks to make it a private party. Groups pick a painting to emulate and then get to work, with instructors helping each person decide colors, details and more. Don’t worry, newbies: Most of the canvases come pre-sketched.
“We have college students come in for date night, empty nesters,” Deakle said. “I’m just surprised at the variety.”
Most of all, she said it’s something fun to try.
“You can pick up paint and a canvas somewhere and take it home, but then you’re by yourself and you’re stuck. This is something totally different to do with your friends,” she said. “Who doesn’t like to paint?” —Jenny Coon Peterson