September/October 2016 Cape Cod Life Magazine

We are always learning

Cape Cod Life  /  September/October 2016 / , ,

Writer: Nancy White / Photographer: Bob Nash 

Cape organizations offer a diverse palette of enrichment courses for students of all ages.

We are always learning, Sept/Oct Cape Cod Life |

Photo by Bob Nash

September has arrived, bringing with it cooler air, quieter streets, and a return to routine. For many, this particular month signals a fresh start, a sentiment that may harken back to younger years when Labor Day marked the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year.

Following this theme, the fall can be viewed as a time of opportunity—to learn something new, perhaps, such as a foreign language, how to play a musical instrument, or simply to get creative and be inspired. And according to some local experts, there is no better, or easier, place to find a new passion than on Cape Cod.

“The Cape offers endless opportunities to take part in a class or join a group, and there are so many unique opportunities,” says Julie Wake, executive director of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. “There’s such an eclectic mix of people and interests down here, and people really need to take advantage of that.”

Whether one is looking to study art, writing, cooking, music, drama, or a variety of other activities, Wake says there is most likely a class, workshop, or group available on the peninsula to nurture that interest, develop new skills, or simply to widen one’s social circle.

The Arts Foundation is a great place to start. Since 1988 the organization has been supporting through grants a wide array of arts education programs from Falmouth to Provincetown. In nearly three decades the Arts Foundation has provided $1.5 million in arts funding to more than 350 unique arts and cultural organizations and individual artists.

Wake says one of the organization’s main goals is to make art accessible to everyone. “Art is therapeutic, expressive and educational,” she says. “Arts are healing and they connect people. I’m a strong believer that art is very empowering. You don’t have to be a famous artist or Hemingway to enjoy the arts.”

Further, the simple act of being part of a group and sharing the experience of learning something new can enrich one’s life, Wake says. “Take a drawing class, for example, it’s a very communal activity where you can develop a new skill, connect with other students, and really develop a sense of place and community.”

We are always learning, Sept/Oct Cape Cod Life |

“The arts” and “community” always seem to go together, and that’s a philosophy the staff at the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis strives to follow. “We try to figure out ways to embrace the community and get them in here,” says Benton Jones, the museum’s education and outreach coordinator. The museum, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2016, offers an array of programming throughout the year including children’s art classes, art history lectures, and printmaking and painting courses.

The museum has also developed outreach and in-house programs that cater to local seniors and individuals with special needs. “There’s a whole spectrum of needs out there,” says Jones, “and our goal is to fill that role in the community.”

Despite the plethora of classes available and the diversity of offerings, individuals still have to take that leap of faith by signing up for a course and actually showing up. Sometimes, feelings of anxiety or ineptitude may keep someone from participating. But according to Wake, that’s exactly where art can help. “Be fearless,” she advises. “Art is the one area of life where you can actually take a huge risk. You should approach art as if there’s no right or wrong answer. Be fearless.”

As the director of education at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth, where enrichment classes are offered for all ages, Amy Neill says it has been her honor to watch newcomers arrive at a course with a curiosity and then grow, over time, artistically.

“I have seen over and over the bond of students in class together and the lifelong friendships that have been made,” Neill says. “The art almost becomes secondary, though it’s the foundation of what brings us all here. It is the people and the positive energy that bring them back over and over again.”

In the event someone may be on the fence about signing up for a class because they may not think they’re “good enough,” Neill says to remember one simple truth: “We are all beginners at some point. Tapping into your creative self is a never-ending process; we are all always learning.”

The end result may just be a newfound passion or the discovery of an unknown talent. Yet, Neill says the most essential element of the experience isn’t either of those things. “Our number one initiative for anyone coming to our building is to have fun,” Neill says emphatically. “It’s a chance to make new friends—and share in a great experience.”

To learn more about the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, visit To view a schedule of programs and classes, visit the Cultural Center of Cape Cod online at and the Cape Cod Museum of Art at

Nancy White is a freelance writer from Hull.

Nancy White

A native of Hingham and a graduate of Boston College, Nancy White works in Boston as a writer for a digital marketing agency and lives in Hull with her husband and beloved Westie, Duncan. In recent years she has written many articles for Cape Cod LIFE including a piece on the history of Brewster’s Stony Brook Grist Mill as well as the ascension of a popular new sport in the area: Pickleball!