From bars to textile mills, make art this summer

by Karen Roberts,

There are many museums and cultural centers in the Lower Hudson Valley where you can see art, but why not make some of your own?

If you want to learn to paint like Picasso or get instruction on the right techniques in wheel-throwing (that's pottery-making jargon) there are lots of ways to get creative.

Consider this summer the perfect opportunity to start a new hobby or work on a longtime passion. Check out museums, art centers, libraries and even your local bar to make art.

We checked out four places ourselves. Here’s a roundup of where to go to create your masterpiece and release that inner Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Rockland Center for the Arts (RoCA)

Nancy Bowen of Valley Cottage works in a painting class at the Rockland Center for the Arts in West Nyack June 27, 2016. (Photo: Peter Carr/The Journal News)

Started in 1947 by artists including Aaron Copland, Paulette Goddard, Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya, Maxwell Anderson and Helen Hayes, RoCA today continues highlighting the creative local talent in Rockland County and the region.

The contemporary artworks lining the walls of its galleries and some impressive outdoor sculptures will get your creative juices flowing. And if that doesn’t inspire you to step outside your car, the tranquility of this spot, tucked away off busy Route 59, will make you want to step outside your comfort zone.

Roberta Bretschneider of Nyack, left, and Rebecca Gmucs of Orangeburg work in a painting class at the Rockland Center for the Arts in West Nyack June 27, 2016. (Photo: Peter Carr/The Journal News)

“Making art can be a way of de-stressing and processing the world in your own terms,” says school director Daly Flanagan.

RoCA offers creative writing, sculpture, ceramics and digital arts, a true mix of traditional and contemporary art programs. "We try to understand what each student’s goal is,” says Flanagan. “We believe art is experience — the process of making something out of nothing is very satisfying.”

RoCA is a multi-discipline arts center geared at early education in the arts with a range of art classes. The nonprofit cultural center welcomes adult students at any stage of life or talent level to pick up this hobby or latent passion.

Mike Hortens of Nyack gets advice from instructor Eleanor Grace Miller during a painting class at the Rockland Center for the Arts in West Nyack June 27, 2016. (Photo: Peter Carr/The Journal News)

“We’re an arts education school with the mission of encouraging equal opportunity in the arts,” says Flanagan. “Our mission is to enrich the community through arts and believe in the transformative power of the arts.”

Adult classes run the gamut from one-day workshops to weekly sessions. Instructors describe art activity as the idea of process over product — you may not be the next Monet, but here’s a place where you can try the paints on for size. Depending on your interest, you'll see a mix of men and women in classes, comfortably over the age of 21, with many likely to be returning students. Flanagan says more than 60 percent come back to take classes.

I took a painting class run by instructor and artist Eleanor Grace Miller. The assignment was indirect painting, which means you gradually build up layers of paint on your canvas, not an easy thing for someone like me who hasn't picked up a paintbrush since junior high.

Mike Hortens of Nyack works in a painting class at the Rockland Center for the Arts in West Nyack June 27, 2016. (Photo: Peter Carr/The Journal News)

There are no wrongs in art, but sometimes, your version doesn't exactly look like the picture. For the record, I was painting a simple picture of coffee cups and plates.

Miller, an instructor for more than 25 years, has taught some of the same students for decades. “They come here for different reasons or sometimes just to please themselves,” she says. “It all has to do with self-expression — people need something other than their job.”

“This is a retreat for a lot of people; they come here to get away and do something for themselves,” says Flanagan. Retired graphic designer Ellen Rifken was taking the drawing in color class where students create using color pencils. “I never knew about this type of art — this is my third time and I really liked it,” she says. “You meet other people; I think it’s a wonderful thing, entertaining and interesting.”

The nurturing and supportive environment is what attracted Deborah Ivry of Nyack who has been taking painting classes at RoCA for 15 years. “I don’t think about it anymore, I just do it.” She calls it a zone or a moment of zen when she paints. “Eleanor is probably the most amazing instructor I’ve ever had; it’s a freedom coming here, you get to come here and get away from the rest of your life.”

Class Pick: Lampworked Glass Bead Workshop. An introduction to the process of making lampworked glass beads. $155.

If You Go: 27 S. Greenbush Road, West Nyack, 845-358-0877,