Art classes that pay for your naked ambition

The author, as rendered by art students (for cash)

Hey kid, you want to be in art classes — naked, unmoving, magnanimously muse-like — and get paid for it? Let me show you the way. To ease your mind, take it from someone who’s been through it a few times: Art modeling is one of the most charmingly asexual enterprises ever. Unlike, for example, an unremarkable walk down a city street, no one looks at you with possessive lechery and cruelty. Here’s a rundown of the major New York art schools (all Brooklyn-accessible!) that will pay you, how much you’ll get paid — what you should expect from the experience.

Art Students League: 215 West 57th St., Manhattan, (212) 247-4510; $13/hr (up from $12 last year; what a boon!). Here, you’ll have to commit to anywhere from a week-long class to multiple weeks-long classes, which consist of short poses (2-20 minutes) and long poses (up to several hours both standing and sitting, with with five-minute breaks every 20 minutes).

New York Studio School: 8 West 8th Street, Manhattan, (212) 673-6466; $14/hr sitting; $15.50 standing. At NYSS, you can sign up for a single class or devote yourself to a many months-long class meeting five days a week. Here, you may work with a few short poses but mostly long poses. There’s more standing than sitting.

Pratt Institute: 200 Willoughby Ave., Brooklyn, (718) 636-3600; $15-22. Poses are up to the predilections of individual teachers, but are usually variations on short or long poses for multiple weeks.

3rd Ward: 195 Morgan Ave., Brooklyn, (718) 715-4961; $70/session (2.5 hours). Drink-n-Draw operates every Wednesday night from 8-10:30 and consists of a few short poses followed by one long pose.

Craigslist: Ah, the unknowable internet. Under Community choose Artists or under Gigs choose Creative or Talent. I have made between $10 and $300 through all variants of Craigslist engagements. Follow the general rules for anything on Craigslist: Play it safe! Think smart, trust yourself if a situation seems sketchier than it should be.

Another artist's rendering of the author

Enrollment is generally once a semester but—as in everything—these things can be finagled. To sign up: Call the schools and ask to speak with the model coordinator or just go in person (with an I.D. and social security card).

A shawl to conceal your naked form during breaks, (non-alcoholic) drink and foodstuffs for reviving, classical artwork for posing inspiration, verve and oomph.

A note on shame: You have some! You’ve been unhealthily raised to dualistically divide your mind from body and here are the repercussions: You don’t want to make some cold, hard cash for your sweet, not-necessarily-hard form. Art modeling is respectful and fun. Every session contains one person acting as a time-keeper (usually a kind, maternal older woman) who makes sure your poses don’t run too long. Your first time art modeling might prove nerve-wracking but remember: your body is being somewhat impersonally admired from an appreciable distance by kindly (usually elder) gents and ladies. It’s a great icebreaker-to-life for the shy. If anything, concentrate on a spot on the wall, mentally run through your daily activities, to-do lists, play fun mnemonic games and breathe.


  1. as a former art model- i highly recommend bringing a full-on bathrobe as opposed to a shawl. it’s nice to get up and walk around all covered up during breaks.
    try and get music or talk shows happening, helps pass the time, and try and secure a space heater for the session- it might not be chilly with clothes on, but naked + not moving for hours = you’ll be in love with the space heater by the time you’re done.
    thanks for the roundup, too. i might have to give one of these places a ring- i could use a couple extra bucks!

  2. Rachel

    I’m a new england based model (3+ years now) and love it, wish that we had a figure modeling union hear on the east coast like they do in san fran….

    i agree with CC, bring a bathrobe (i have a kimono) and check to make sure they have a space heater, you will need it.
    also you might want to bring some blankets and pillows. when i first started i didn’t know that and it has helped tremendously for props, covering chairs a million people have sat in, and just comfort! you also may want to bring in a timer (could be on your phone) because not everyone times for you.

    good luck! its an awesome job, especially if you like to meditate :)

  3. Angel

    I have a question. I’d like to try this out, i have 4 tattoos 2 smalls nautical star, one on each shoulder blade, 1 on my lower back of a taurus thats my zodiac sign, and a name on my forearm. Do you think i can still model for some schools?

  4. Wolf Medicine

    Don’t forget SVA ($18/hour). Call to get on the list for one of their auditions (usually held in January each year). The faculty and staff are absolutely professional and friendly. It’s really good money with a flexible schedule and they provide heaters and yoga mats. The more “edgy” “funky” “weirdo” your style the better in my experience. I have tattoos and piercings and get lots of work through them.

    FIT is another school that hires models but is harder to get steady work with. I’ve tried in the past but it lead nowhere. If anyone knows of an in let me know.

    Also, RIP 3rd Ward

  5. jeff cacace

    Is this something for men as well as women ? I am a man in my forties and I was considering doing something like this. I used to disrobe professionally, so I am used to being naked in front of people and I keep myself in amazing condition. Just a thought. I don’t know where to begin. Long Island would be easier if there is anything out here. But, I guess I can travel for the right situation. Any information you can give would be helpful

    • This is something for men and women but the men seem to have a more limited opportunity. I began modeling as a senior and found it liberating. Depending upon the group the poses are different lengths. You really should bring a few props, maybe even a stool. You can get ideas for poses online. The open studios on Long Island are on line if your enter Long Island art classes with life models. Other than the one in Long Island City and the Oyster Bay site most are in Suffolk. There are other groups than the ones shown online that you can access by networking. Also some of the colleges have art classes.

      I like the atmosphere of the South Street Gallery in Greenport. Small group, pleasant surroundings, $25/hour. Artists are on three sides. The Southampton venue is very open, often crowded, working on a stage with artists all around making meaningful poses more difficult.

      Most groups prefer standing or sitting.

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