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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Pickle Street Studio

Connie Bridges

How many people get to turn their childhood school into their dream? Not many. But Joy Richmond is one.

When Richmond was a child, she attended a one-room country school near Hopkins, Michigan. Her family later bought the building. She inherited it and renovated it to become the Pickle Street School Studio. Richmond uses it as her own studio, but she also teaches drawing and painting there and holds workshops for other artists.

A conversation with Joy Richmond

Richmond is a member of the Allegan Area Arts Council, Plein Air Artists of West Michigan, and the Great Lakes Pastel Society. Pickle Street School Studio also participates in the annual “Arts & Eats” tour of Southwest Michigan.

Credit Joy Richmond
The former schoolhouse that's now the Pickle Street Studio

“The tales that I’ve heard — and I’ve tried to research this — is that the countryside out here is very sandy, ideal for growing pickles,” Richmond says. “The school was built in 1858, and back then, every square mile there was a little country school. The road the school was on was called Pickle Street. That’s the story I’ve been told.”

Because she works in oil, pastel, and watercolor, Richmond renovated the school to suit her artistic needs, and as a gathering place for other artists. She offers classes in painting and drawing, and encourages independent studio study. Guest artists also teach various workshops.

Richmond has a sense of nostalgia as she works in the studio, where she was a student from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“The school system consolidated in 1968, but by then I was already out of high school,” she says. “My family then bought the schoolhouse, and it’s next to where I grew up. Throughout the years, I always envisioned turning that school into a studio.”

The building was used for various purposes while Richmond worked as a teacher. But when she retired, Richmond told her mother she wanted to inherit the building. When she did, Richmond began the renovation process, spackling and painting and cleaning up the schoolhouse so it regained its former charm.

Richmond now teaches at the studio twice weekly and offers workshops led by guest artists on many weekends. To view her class schedule, visit the Pickle Street School Studio website or call (616) 896-9090. Proper spacing, face masks, and COVID vaccinations are required.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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