Theater & art

Guess what you can do at these 8 Massachusetts museums?

Learn icon painting at the Museum of Russian Icons (top) in Clinton or welding at the Museum of Fine Arts (above).
Jocelyn Willis
Learn icon painting at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton.

Learn to loom, wield a medieval sword, get inside the mind of an artist’s model — the things you can do at Boston-area museums are almost as varied, and as impressive, as the museums themselves. For those who want to go beyond merely looking at the art, there’s a surprising wealth of opportunities. Here’s a sampling:

FIGHT LIKE A VIKING: At Worcester’s Higgins Armory Museum, adults can learn the combat skills of Vikings, medieval Europe’s most fearsome warriors. Classes feature sagas set in Viking-age Iceland, and students engage in drills, games, and exercises to learn the fundamentals of Viking-related martial arts. Classes are physically and mentally challenging. The Higgins collection is moving to the Worcester Art Museum in January, and the Viking training progam is moving to a training facility in Millbury. Course: $50 a month., 508-853-6015

DIY ICONS: Every summer, the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton hosts the renowned Prosopon School of Iconology for an intensive six-day course. No prior icon painting or art exerience needed. Students study the techniques of painting icons, including transferring the image, applying gold leaf, mixing pigments, using the “floating” egg tempera technique, and lettering in the traditional style. 2014 tuition hasn’t been set; in 2013 it was $800 for members, $850 for nonmembers. Slots go fast, and registration starts in the spring., 978-598-5000


HAPPY HOURS: Danforth Art in Framingham runs classes on everything from making 3-D structures out of found objects to learning to photograph your own work to creating chain maille jewelry, but perhaps its most attention-grabbing courses are the Ladies Night Out events. The museum says to “bring a beverage” for classes in ceramics ($35 for members, $45 for nonmembers) and beading ($36 members, $46 nonmembers)., 508-620-0937

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THE ARTS OF FABRIC: Where better to learn to knit, loom, or use the ikat dyeing technique than the American Textile History Museum, in Lowell. Classes range from $25 to $150 (plus material fees in some cases). Or, for free, you can drop in on monthly meetings of the Saturday morning Rise, Shine & Knit Club. The group meets for breakfast and knitting., 978-441-0400

POSERS’ POV: At the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, the pictures speak, sort of. The first Friday of each month, visitors can learn what it was like to pose for America’s favorite illustrator from Rockwell’s own models, who share their personal experiences. On the second Friday of each month, a curator of education regales students with humorous tales and little-known facts. Free with museum admission. , 413-298-4100

HOLIDAY DRUMMING: The Museum of African American History in Beacon Hill will offer an interactive workshop for families this December featuring an African drumming performance and setting of the Kwanzaa table. Group size can range from 10 people to 30, and prices go from $250 to $1,000., 617-725-0022

Nick Ryan
Welding at the Museum of Fine Arts.

WELDING WONDERS: The Museum of Fine Arts offers studio art classes and workshops in a truly inspirational setting. Adults can learn to weld, paint with watercolors, or sculpt animals out of glass. Teens can learn comic-book illustrating basics, digital photography, or adventure drawing (using museum objects as inspiration). Kids can sketch in the galleries and then create projects in the studio. Adult classes average $240 for members, $285 for nonmembers. Children/teen classes cost $200 for members, $235 for nonmembers (with $20 materials fee for teens)., 617-267-9300


SCULPT THIS Admire the sculptures on the grounds of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, then learn to make your own in a six-session workshop. “Ceramic Sculpture: Special Vessels and Designed Environments” is described as a course for people “looking to enhance indoor and outdoor spaces with ceramic art or installations, or those striving for sculptural expression.” Cost is $355 for members, $415 for non-members, plus firing/materials fee based on usage. , 781-259-8355

Beth Teitell can be reached at