Try Something New

Providence is packed with cool groups and pastimes, so don’t let winter stand in the way


Some of us can’t sit still. We crave activity, action. Even in February, when Rhode Island is blanketed in snow and the nights are 14 hours long, we just can’t let ourselves hibernate. We want to meet new people, learn new skills, keep our heart rates up. We pace around our living rooms stir-crazy, eager to put our weekends and evenings to good use. There’s a whole world beyond our walls, we know, and no amount of windshield-scraping will stop us from exploring it.

Lucky for us, Providence is packed with hobbies and pastimes, clubs and meetups, classes and workshops, where like-minded folks defy the blizzards and try something new. You don’t need special skills or years of experience. Most of these venues are budget-friendly or free. And overall, organizers don’t care about your age, gender, or physical condition, as long as you show up with a healthy attitude and an open mind. Whatever your bucket list, no matter how timid or gregarious you are, there’s a group waiting for your membership, if only you can find them.
Here’s just a handful of Providence-based classes and organizations with easy enrollment. You may sign up for one, or just show up for another. Some may entertain you for a day, others for years. But if you’ve been diagnosed with chronic cabin fever, these are some very effective cures.

For the Footloose

Anyone can move their body to a beat, but wouldn’t it be great to show off some “moves” at your next wedding? The go-to informal dance school is Twirl the Girl, where any anxious, rhythmless visitor can learn salsa, swing, or foxtrot in a few painless lessons. Twirl the Girl classes run the gamut of popular dance forms, and Rhode Islanders can choose from five locations (including two in Pawtucket). Meanwhile, Chifferobe is best known as a retro cabaret act, with speakeasy dancing and lots of feathers, but even you can learn these old-timey steps, thanks to classes like Intermediate Tap and “Burlesquersize.”

For the Foodie

Learning Italian and Mediterranean cuisine with a master like Walter Potenza is a profound luxury, and we’re lucky to have Chef Walter’s Cooking School so close by. Aside from his renowned cooking style, Potenza has been teaching busy people the culinary arts since 1995, and he offers youth and corporate classes as well. (Catch him at his brand-new location on Mayfield Avenue in Cranston). Another great venue is Professor Chef in North Providence, where Phillip C. Griffin and Malinda A. Colletta bring decades of experience to their cooking instruction. (Check out their website for special YouTube tutorials). This month’s classes include Pub Classics and Amazing Asian. 

For the Film Buff

All across the state, fledgling filmmakers are making movies. But what good is a short film if nobody sees it? Cocktails and Screens is a chance to catch these cinematic experiments, meet the directors, and sip some libations. Hosted by AS220, Cocktails and Screens enables early-stage auteurs to screen their work, while audiences can sample local projects. But what if you want to pick up the camera? The Rhode Island Film Collaborative (RIFC) meets monthly at the Wild Colonial Tavern for informal networking sessions. Meet other visionaries, conscript local talent, and consider getting involved with the 48-Hour Film Project. 

For the Closet Thespian

You want to see a stage play. You love the thrill of live performances. You want high drama, or zingy comedy, or a little razzle dazzle. But who do you go with? Well, the Rhode Island Theater Meetup Group claims nearly 500 theatergoers, and they’re interested in pretty much any show in the state. The group finds productions, provides logistics, and arranges rendezvous points; all you have to do is buy a ticket and show up. Remember, though: the theater bug bites hard. Aspiring actors can sign up for Acting Classes at Trinity Rep. It’s not every day you can sign up for acting workshops and scene studies at a world-class theater, so aspiring performers should take advantage.

For the Undiscovered Athlete

The November Project was specifically designed to keep people active in the
colder months, because a little snow and darkness are no excuse to stop moving. Free and open to all, The November Project is like a massive outdoor aerobics class for the early-morning set. Similarly, Super Fun Activities Club is like recess for adults, with all kinds of nostalgic sports – dodgeball, kickball, and pillow polo. Describing itself as a “social sports” club, this company sets up leagues and events across the county. Finally, for folks who just need a little motivation to run, there’s the Rhode Runner Running Club, which meets twice a month and is your gateway to the local race scene. 

For the Hands-On

Many of us are too skittish to interact with a 2,000-degree furnace, much less shape a white-hot glob of glass into a sculptural masterpiece. But if you can conquer your fear and embrace the heat, Gather Glass offers the rare opportunity to learn the millennia-old art of glass-blowing. These classes not only introduce you to this hallowed art, but you can walk away with your own vessel or ornament. In the same hands-on spirit, you can learn sophisticated flower arrangements at Floral Reserve, or how to build your own bicycle from scratch at Recycle a Bike. Tech innovators can meet their kin at Providence Geeks, a social and networking group for coders and engineers of all levels.

For the Class Clown

Jokes are hard, especially when there’s no script. But as any improv comic will tell you, it’s not about “being funny.” Improv is about listening, working as a group, and creating something from nothing – which is just one reason regular people fall in love with it. Providence Improv Guild (PIG) holds regular classes and workshops at the Southside Cultural Center. Over in Pawtucket, you can sign up for an intro class at Wage House, a dedicated comedy theater. One you’ve honed your skills, you can join a team, perform for the public, or even audition for the annual Providence Improv Fest, held at AS220. Humor aside, find out why the “yes and” approach has empowered performers of all backgrounds.

Write That Novel

You can write anywhere; all you need is pen and paper. But to write well, you may seek some guidance – and Providence is full of writing instructors. The writers at Goat Hill are thoughtful, well published, and heavily involved with the literary community; their seminars are geared mostly to fiction writers. Frequency Writers offers an incredible range of courses, from nature essays to screenwriting, taught by a diverse body of instructors. Finally, there’s the Rhode Island branch of GrubStreet, the 20-year-old writing institution based in Boston. Practice the essentials of creative writing, listen to feedback, and learn about the wide world of literary publishing. 

For the Emerging Artist

Painting classes are a great way to socialize, especially when there’s wine involved. Paint and Vino is designed to introduce students to pigments and canvas, while also pouring beverages. Muse Paintbar is a similar concept, hosting everything from bachelorette parties to kids’ birthdays. If these one-off events spark a creative wildfire, you may find yourself browsing the RISD Continuing Education course catalogue, where anyone sign up for workshops in drawing, illustration, graphic design, and other visual arts. Women crafters can join the Handicraft Club and learn such intricate skills as paper-cutting, quilting, and weaving on a loom. Once you’ve honed your talents, you could even join the Providence Art Club, a gathering place for artists and aesthetes since the 1880s. 

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