Get Smart

East Side is a wellspring for adult education


Wisdom has it that learning is a life-long process – and as the “Creative Capital,” Providence offers myriad opportunities to try new skills, speak a new language, and hone your craft. The East Side is a hub for adult and continuing education, especially for grown-up students who need no accreditation and prefer to learn for learning’s sake. So, if your New Year’s resolution is to check off some bucket list items, you may take your first instructive steps at any of these affordable institutions.

What do the Grateful Dead, knitting, global politics, scrabble, and mindfulness have in common? You can take courses in them at the Lifelong Learning Collaborative (LLC). Designed for mature adults, the nonprofit offers a collaborative space to learn a variety of skills and subjects. For 30 years, LLC has held lectures and workshops with retirement age pupils; most take place at Temple Beth-El, and participants are invited to join the LLC’s recurring brown bag lunch series. Plus, there are visits to New York City, local museums, plein air painting classes, and much more. 70 Orchard Avenue

For many Providence folks, the International House of Rhode Island is their “home away from home.” The organization’s mission is to promote friendship, learning, and community through cross-cultural exchange and language development. The nonprofit offers English classes and tutoring for all levels, foreign language courses, in addition to nationality diners and multi-cultural events and programs. 8 Stimson Avenue

Located in Hamilton House on the East Side, in a French Chateau-style home listed on the National Registry, is the Adult Learning Exchange, a nonprofit organization that allows adults to engage in intellectual enrichment and pursue creative passions in a supportive environment. Courses include computer classes, book clubs, fitness classes, and artmaking. Members make professional presentations on topics relating to the community, social issues, humanities, and health. 276 Angell Street

A local library is a resource sometimes undervalued in the digital age: and yet the library offers a wealth of opportunities to develop a lifelong love of learning, hone new skills, and connect with the community. Rochambeau Library and Fox Point Library, in partnership with other Providence Community Libraries like Mount Pleasant Library and South Providence Library, offer a vibrant array of programs for community members, such as programming classes, GED preparation courses, Spanish classes – as well as courses taught in Spanish – in addition to “Read and Rap” programs, Girls Who Code, and talks with local writers. 

From courses on drawing to decorative furniture painting, East Side Art Center has everything. The classes are small and taught by practicing artists Carolyn and Don Simon, allowing for plenty of one-on-one time with the teachers. They want their classes to feel comfortable and cozy right here in the Providence studio, or in one of their workshops in Italy, or the rolling hills of Block Island. 26 Rochambeau Avenue

Rhode Island School of Design is world-famous for its multimedia instruction, and the school has graduated scores of leading designers and aesthetes. Less well known – and a boon for RI residents – is their robust catalogue of adult courses. Browse foundation classes in drawing and painting, weekend workshops, and such novice courses as “Not an Artist? Not a Designer?” If you need flexibility, RISD now offers classes online and at the Westerly Education Center. Rolling admission allows you to sign up anytime – but beware, some classes fill up fast. 2 College Street