For Broken Arrow resident Brent Ramsey, his first enrichment class was an act of self-preservation.
Ramsey was in a rut – the stress and anxiety of his information technology position had caught up with him and he had trouble sleeping.
That’s when his doctor-appointed therapist told him to find an outlet, which turned out to be a short class at Tulsa Stained Glass. From there, making stained-glass art became a permanent habit.
“I’m not normally a creative person,” Ramsey says. “I’ve always been more technically minded, but
this gave me a chance to explore that part of myself.”
That’s a common theme with enrichment classes: Rather than advancing a person’s career, they enhance the person. Many classes focus on artistic or creative pursuits, like writing or drawing.
Across Oklahoma, these classes are presented by businesses or as continuing education classes at colleges. They can also be found at places like the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, which has an entire department dedicated to learning and engagement.
Tracy Truels, that department’s director, says the museum’s classes help people break into new hobbies or return to old ones.
“It’s really open for everybody,” she says. “Our classes tend to attract a mix of total first-timers and people who haven’t done art in a while.”
The institution offers a variety of classes every semester, including painting, drawing, glass-blowing and photography, Truels says.
“We’ve also been listening to our students, so we have a DSLR photography class,” she says. “We’re getting people who already knew their camera and people who’ve never used one. We had somebody come in with their camera still in its box.”
The schedules for the museum’s classes vary; some last six weeks, but others might be just one afternoon, Truels says.
“We used to have this really standard approach to how long classes were, and we realized each class had its own sweet spot,” she says. “We have an introductory watercolor class and that’s three Sunday afternoons.”
The overall goal, Truels says, is for people to create art for themselves, from themselves.
“We want people to come and get in touch with that creative side,” she says.
Dina Hunt, assistant marketing director for Tulsa Stained Glass, says exploration is exactly what enrichment classes should provide.
“Lots of times when people are going through whatever season of their life that may be troubling them, it can be hard to express it in words,” she says. “It’s kind of a way to let people free their mind and find what makes them happy.”
That creative side can benefit anybody. At Tulsa Stained Glass, owner Richard Bohm says he has students “all the way from corporate America team-building to a person on the street to people with physical or mental disabilities or issues. Art’s a wonderful thing.”
Bohm says he wants to help people “express themselves in a positive way” when they attend classes.
“We take it from a fun and entertainment standpoint,” he says. “There’s no judgment. People don’t have to be an artist.”
Hunt describes the process as “letting go of perfection.” It’s not about making masterpieces so much as it is creating something that makes a person … enriched.
“We help everybody become successful, by which … they create art that they’re happy with,” she says. “It’s kind of an enlightening experience to allow yourself to break away from the hustle and bustle and focus on you.”
Beginning classes abound. Tulsa-area residents can check out the City-County Library’s adult learning program at guides.tulsalibrary.org/adultlearning or Tulsa Community College’s Continuing Education program at cewfd.tulsacc.edu.
In and around Oklahoma City, options include Rose Community College’s Community Learning Center (rose.edu/content/business-community/community-learning-center) and Everything Goes Dance (everythinggoesdance.com/class-info/adults).
Whichever route one might go, it’s meant to make a person more complete, Ramsey says.
“What really matters is whether … you feel happier by the time you’re done,” he says. “If it ends up becoming a hobby, great, or if you decide you want to start making stuff and selling it online, or if you finally get started on a novel or something – that’s great. Just as long as you end up happier than you were.”