Rachel Hopkins loved her work as a freelance illustrator. But something was missing. When she and her architect husband Adam found an empty 100-year-old firehouse in Plainwell, Hopkins knew what it was: a community of artists. They turned the station into Design Street, where all kinds of artists share their work.
“Design Street is a nonprofit art education studio that I founded six years ago,” Hopkins says. “Our mission is to inspire, encourage, and engage the community and creativity - all sorts of forms of creativity. And beyond that to develop an appreciation of cultures through the artistic process, discovering how each culture has its own individual forms of self- expression, but that we’re really united by a system of order called aesthetics.”
All of the instructors at Design Street are professional artists or trained art educators. Classes and workshops span a wide range of forms and mediums. Painting courses cover everything from Impressionism, pet portraits, and Japanese brush painting to oil painting, watercolor, pencil drawing, and more. There's also photography, chocolate-making, glass mosaics, landscaping design, Ukrainian eggs, stained glass bird houses, memory boxes, and much more. Classes are also available for children and teens. The list seems nearly endless, but Hopkins says Design Street can also accommodate individual requests.
“I feel like our instructors often find us, rather than the other way around,” Hopkins says. “I don’t know if there’s a calling, or kind of a spiritual thing happening, or what. But I feel like all of our instructors share their hearts to love on people. And that’s not typically a common thing in artists. Artists are often loners and uncomfortable around other people. Art is how they communicate.”
As for time for her own art, Hopkins admits that she sometimes comes up short.
“It’s been a personal challenge,” she says. “I love teaching my college classes. I love being the director at Design Street, planning these programs, working with these amazing people. But we have to keep creating or else that part of you diminishes and you start to lack motivation in your own work and your own life.”
Combining a class with her own artistic interests, Hopkins is currently working with dolls, objects that she feels unite all peoples in all cultures by representing family and the individual.
“I am so inspired and delighted by the variety of different styles of dolls, (their) colors and patterns,” Hopkins says. “I am expressing my own experiences and background, my own versions of some of these dolls.”
Visit Design Street to view classes and workshops offered in winter and spring, or call Rachel Hopkins at (269) 615-0884 for more information.
Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.