Affordable and Original Classes: An Interview with Jen From Brooklyn Brainery

Interested in learning how to do Zombie makeup? Want to learn more about Indian condiments or Medieval History? Have no idea where you can actually learn about this stuff? Fear not—Brooklyn Brainery has you covered.

Brooklyn Brainery is a community-driven educational space in Brooklyn that holds a variety of affordable classes for locals. From how-to’s on writing your first play, to DIY sandal making, and whipping up homemade salad dressings, previous classes prove there is no class too outlandish or too specific to be turned down at Brooklyn Brainery.

All classes are suggested by the community and taught by teachers, who can be anyone with a passion and knowledge for a particular subject. If you know everything there is to know about Harry Potter, or have the secret to making the perfect pizza dough and you’re in the Brooklyn/NY area, maybe you are the next teacher BB has been looking for.

The classes at BB usually run for one, two, or three weeks and are kept as budget-friendly as possible, the owners wanted to make sure it didn’t break the bank to learn something new. Creative and affordable classes on anything and everything was their main goal and it has made a great impression on the local community.

The BlogLocal team was lucky enough to do a Q&A with Jen Messier, one of the brains/owners of Brooklyn Brainery, and ask her about classes, teachers, and the local response.

Q&A with Jen

1. How did you get the idea to start Brooklyn Brainery?

Soma, the other half of the Brainery, and I were taking lots of classes and going to all kinds of lectures around the city. At a certain point, we realized how expensive it was all getting and that we could never afford to keep it up. We decided that there had to be a way to learn things on the cheap and decided to start these learning groups, which were really intended to be book clubs on all sorts of subjects. Although the Brainery’s changed a lot since then, the general motivation–to learn neat things and meet interesting people–remains the same.

2. What are some of the most successful classes you’ve held at BB?

Anything related to food is of course really popular, same goes for crafty classes where you make something, like screen printing or crocheting. Some of our favorites though, are the classes that are a little more academic–we had a class on DNA earlier this summer, and a friend of ours who is a high school history teacher does lots of really interesting American history lectures. We also love to host classes that would be hard to find elsewhere; I’m especially excited about a class on the history of duels that’s coming up in a couple of weeks.

3. How do you start your own class at BB?

Anyone can teach, whether you’re an enthusiast or a professional. We have a suggestions page on our website where people pitch ideas, then we always get together to chat in person about class structure and format. Lots of our teachers are first timers, so we try and provide as much guidance as needed about what’s worked/not worked in the past and help organize all of the logistics, like ordering supplies. We like to make it as easy as possible for people who have never taught before to try it out.

4. Are there any rules/restrictions on what kind of classes you hold?

We’ll basically do anything that can fit in our space and doesn’t require power tools. We try and keep the rooms flexible so they can accommodate everything from hands on crafty things to big lectures, and we especially love to offer classes that you can’t find anywhere else.

5. What has the local response been to BB?

People have responded really well from the beginning. We’re definitely part of a larger movement in self-education, which you can see that popping up all over the place, and there’s a large desire for classes of this sort. We all have found that once you’re outside a structured learning environment, it’s hard to convince yourself to study new things no matter how curious you are. For ourselves, and hopefully everyone else, the Brainery to be a place to experiment learning new things.

6. Has your blog increased awareness of BB?

Definitely. We use it in all the typical ways to announce classes and events, but it’s most fun to post on experiments, or class notes, or just interesting facts. Hopefully people will find those posts, on things like making your own artificial maple syrup, hidden cemeteries around New York City, even if they’re not in Brooklyn or interested in taking a class with us.

7. How does BB influence Brooklyn’s local community?

Brooklyn’s obviously a huge place, and with that, it can be really hard to meet new people.  One of the things we originally wanted from the Brainery was to bring together people who were interested in a topic in a low-key way, and hopefully we’ve been able to do that. I know, personally, we’ve met a million awesome people over the past couple years.

Thanks for talking to us, Jen! Follow Brooklyn Brainery on Twitter here, Facebook here, or visit them in person at 515 Court St, Brooklyn, NY.

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