There’s nothing like a tough economy to get us looking for cheap ways to learn new skills, make connections or blow off steam. PW has rounded up the best ways to pursue a neglected hobby or try something new. Find the intellectual environment to learn more about the environment. Learn to save money by woodworking, painting, gardening or boating. Dig into the dirty past through prison tunnels and medical oddities. Meet new people as you expand your mind in Philly’s neighborhoods with this guide to higher knowledge for less.
Fleisher Art Memorial offers free courses with membership ($30 per semester/$60 per year). Choose from classes in color, anatomy, art history, drawing, sculpture, painting, ceramics and manual photography with a complete darkroom. A great place for total beginners to learn how to draw naked people. Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catherine St. 215.922.3456. fleisher.org
CENTER CITY/SOUTH STREET
Latin Night Beginners and Intermediate Salsa Class. Salsa is more than a condiment; it’s a movement. Get sexy on the dance floor at Latin Night. Even if you’ve got two left feet, you can learn the basics and watch everyone else get down. Free. Every Tues., 9pm. Reef Restaurant and Lounge. 605 S. Third St. 215.629.0102. reefcaribbeanlounge.com
Wooden Shoe Books hosts radical and fringe perspectives nightly. April’s events range from avant-garde film screenings on Sundays to lectures that feature notable activists and revolutionaries, spanning visual arts, cooking, politics, literature and food—vegan bake sale, that is (April 30). Wooden Shoe Books, 704 South St. 215.493.0999. woodenshoebooks.com
Herbalist Maia Toll leads Everyday Herbalism. In the Herbiary’s rustic kitchen, a small group studies an herb a month, how to make tonics, cosmetics, and cleaning products, and how to get urban lives a little more dirty. Three classes cost $125. 6pm, 4th Wednesday. Herbiary, 7721 Germantown Ave. herbiary.com
What could be more interesting than an afternoon with a character named Chef Poon, making six types of dumplings using ingredients like shark’s fin? May 14, 2:30pm. $79. Joseph Poon Chef Kitchen 1010 Cherry St. 215.928.9333. josephpoon.com
The place to learn about incarceration and prison life in Philly short of getting incarcerated is at Eastern State Penitentiary. Events include an inmate and officer reunion (May 15) and a Prison Break Weekend, complete with climbing wall and escape tunnel spelunking (June 12). $12. Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Ave. 215.236.5111. easternstate.org
Practica Abierta. The name of this all-levels tango class means “open practice” for all until 11 p.m. on Fridays, with an optional snack potluck and roses clenched in teeth. 8pm, free. Philadelphia Argentine Tango School, 2030 Frankford Ave. 617.291.3798. philadelphiatangoschool.com
Target Community Nights offers free all-access to the Franklin Institute, including select IMAX showings and everything else they have to see, like the planetarium and Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop. Sounds like a good place to spend 4/20. Free. April 20 and May 18, 5pm. Franklin Institute, 222 N. 20th St. 215.448.2320. fi.edu
The Academy of Natural Sciences hosts free City Council candidate forums on urban sustainability (Districts 1-5, April 6; Districts 6-10, April 21, 6pm). The Center for Environmental Policy also hosts weekly topics like food supply and gas drilling. Remember the dinosaur hall? A $12 splurge gets you in the museum and two extra bucks gets you into the live butterfly exhibit. Academy of Natural Sciences, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy. 215.299.1000. ansp.org
Tai Chi is like kung fu in slow motion. You won’t be a karate kid after this class, but you’ll quiet your mind and massage your body from the inside. Free. Every Thurs., 1:30pm. Also offering a writer’s workshop for aspiring creative writers to get together and learn how to make their writing better—if not lucrative. Free. Every Mon., 10am. Free Library Oak Lane, 6614 N. 12th St. 215.685.1284. freelibrary.org
When technology was cruder, people learned from each other through word of mouth. Sometimes life teaches us more than a class can, so expand your consciousness of human experience by taking in the words and rhythms of Philadelphia’s finest poets and storytellers at these open mics.