Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Best of Indy Awards

This has been an up-and-down year for adult continuing education in Indianapolis. I had lots of great class experiences (see below), but I also had a lot of duds, such as no-show instructors, over-priced classes and closed venues.

This coming year, I resolve to take even more classes -- such as that blacksmithing class I've been putting off -- and to keep learning new things.

And now, the winners of the 2010 That'll Teach Me "Best of Indy" awards:

Best class -- Hands down, this award goes to the new Wine and Canvas. The nomadic painting class, which meets at restaurants and its new studio, is a fun, low-commitment outing. Instructors walk through the painting process step by step, making the classes perfect for all skill levels (even my kindergarten-level art skills).

Best continuing education venue -- For the second year in a row, this award goes to IU's Mini University, a week-long "summer camp" of classes for adults. I had another phenomenal experience this past June, learning about such topics as stem-cell research, Bob Dylan and the exploration of Mars. With the thriving Bloomington restaurant scene and the beautiful campus, I can't think of a better way to spend a week.

Best instructor -- As it turns out, playing the blues harmonica isn't really my thing. But instructor Allen Stratyner, who teaches the class through the IUPUI Community Learning Network and the JCC, was a methodical and patient instructor. He set clear goals for each class, gave us useful homework assignments and -- most important -- communicated his passion for the blues.

As always, let's take a moment to mourn our losses this year: chiefly, the cooking classes at Frasier's Gourmet Foods. We wish the owners a wonderful retirement!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Farewell to Frasier's

When Joy and Byron Frasier lock the doors at Frasier's Gourmet Foods today, it will be for the last time. After decades of serving the Fishers foodie community, the Frasiers are retiring, with plans to travel and spend more time with their grandchildren.

I'm happy for the Frasiers, but I'm also mourning the loss of a great class venue. Over the years, I've taken perhaps a dozen classes at Frasier's, with great chefs like Erin Kem and the late Joseph Allford. I've explored the canning process, learned cake decorating, discovered the wonders of ingredients like quinoa and vanilla, and tasted lots of delicious food along the way.

For foodies in the Fishers area, a new shop called Tasteful Times will fill the need for gourmet groceries. That shop doesn't offer classes, though, so the educational void remains.

Best wishes to the Frasiers, and thanks for the outstanding learning opportunities! And, to everyone, happy holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

IUPUI Releases New Catalog

For the first time in several semesters, I'm excited about the new schedule at the IUPUI Community Learning Network. There's a whole new section of cooking classes, and all of my favorites are there: flower arranging with Sara Thompson, blues harmonica with Allen Stratyner and more.

One class that sounds especially intriguing is "A History of Jazz," which includes field trips to the Chatterbox on Mass Ave. Students watch the performance and then chat with the musicians afterward, so they get real-world experience to boost classroom discussions. What a fun model for a class!

The same is true of "How to Hike the Appalachian Trail," which includes day hikes and one overnight trip. I've just finished Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, so of course now I have this feverish notion of hiking the trail, too. This class could get me started -- or, more likely, it would demonstrate that hiking 2,000 miles isn't really something I want to do. Lesson learned.

As usual, you'll also find a broad mix of dance and fitness classes, musical training, photography, languages, and professional-development opportunities, including lots of new business-oriented classes. It's such a cliche, but there really is something for everyone.