cool and unusual art classes

 If you’re among the state’s legions of un- or under-employed, or simply feel the need to flex your creative muscles, you can learn new skills and even produce some useful things at the Steel Yard, which opened registration for its spring and summer course offerings in February.

This totally neat non-profit, which occupies an old factory building near Federal Hill, gives students the skills to turn chunks of steel, clay, glass and precious metals into objects that can become part of your everyday life. Oh yes, and you can also learn how to fix bikes, build a bike trailer, and even start a small business. It’s one-stop industrial-arts shopping, all set in a striking post-industrial space.

Spring classes meet once a week, usually in the evenings, for eight weeks in April and May; summer courses are longer, ten weeks starting in June. Prices depend on the materials and equipment involved. For instance, the eight-week class on wheel-generated forms in the ceramics department costs $260, including studio access outside class. Glass casting and jewelry making are about the same, welding a little more ($360 for the ten week intro course).

Weekend workshops are also part of the line up. Weld with mum on Mother’s Day weekend, create a ring on another. That’s right, you can work on your relationships here, too.

Classes are already starting to fill up so get your yard on and call. Having taken a class there last fall, I can attest to the professionalism of the Steel Yard’s set up and the life-affirming qualities of learning useful creative skills, not to mention getting out of the house, meeting diverse people and all going out for a beer afterward. Plus I took care of all my Christmas presents this way (if you didn’t want a mug with a wonky handle, tough!). It was incredibly worthwhile.

It can be chilly inside the building so spring attendees may want to bundle up for the first few classes. Just don’t wear anything that you’ll mind getting dirty. Thankfully, this isn’t the kind of place where you need to worry about whether your ratty old wool coat makes you look like a hobo. Remember, you don’t have to be Jennifer Beals to weld in legwarmers. And didn’t fingerless gloves come back in?