NEW YORK — Home furnishings store chain West Elm has come up with a novel way to connect with customers: Sell them experiences that send them to other local businesses.

West Elm is launching workshops in five cities that will send participants on visits to local artists and entrepreneurs who will teach them skills ranging from art welding to coloring fabric with indigo dye.

West Elm says the project, which starts April 2, is in keeping with its mission of being a good neighbor to smaller, community-based businesses. West Elm is based in New York’s Brooklyn borough, where it started with a single store in 2002. It now has more than 100 stores in the U.S., Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Its 5-year-old West Elm Local initiative has brought artists and craftspeople into more than 100 of its stores, where they get a chance to sell goods and connect with customers.

But the new project will be the first time West Elm steers shoppers directly to other businesses or to activities outside its stores. It’s a novel way for the retailer to engage with customers and grassroots artists.

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“As a retailer, we’re transforming how we’re interacting with our customers, interacting with them outside the four walls of our store,” says Mo Mullen, director of West Elm Local. “Customers want experiences, and this is an opportunity for us to help create those experiences…