Steal her secrets series: Founder of community arts center answers 25 career questions

Steal her secrets
Credit: Rachel hopkins

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- Her suit fits just right, she knows everyone in the room and you can just tell she’s got it going on!  You wish you could be her or simply wish you knew her secret to success.  WOTV 4 Women wants to give you a deeper look at the many power women who are helping make West Michigan a thriving place for women at work.  We’re having them dish the details on everything from work life to home life and what has led to their career success.

25 Questions with Rachel Hopkins

steal her secrets series

Meet Rachel Hopkins. She’s the Founder of Design Street in Plainwell, a non-profit community arts education center located in a historic firehouse.  She wears a LOT of hats including founder/director/teacher/secretary/janitor/art supply purchaser/PR Rep/Fundraising Chair/Friend and more!  But there’s a lot more to know about this power woman and her career.

Question 1: Describe your job and why you love it.

My job is about sharing LIFE through the process of CREATIVITY. No only do I get to put programs together that educate students on a huge variety of art techniques, mediums, movements and concepts, but I get to work with amazing local artists who have a desire to share their lives with others by teaching what they know about ART. To be able to connect with the community in such a personal way is a rare thing. To be able to do this for such a diverse range of people of all ages and backgrounds can only happen through the language of ” self expression” which is creativity. It is the great equalizer in many ways. ART is short for “ARTIFACT”. It’s what’s “left behind” when we are long gone. To be able to give people skills and encouragement to speak their minds and hearts in a way that everyone can “hear”(see)…it is an amazing thing!

Question 2: Dig through your purse and tell us three must have items you found and 1 item you were surprised to find.

Can I list “100 receipts” as 1 item? :), Deodorant (because I always forget to put it on), ads for Michaels and Joann Fabrics, and the item I was surprised to find was Kohls cash (expired).

Question 3: When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?

An artist, cartoonist, animator, illustrator, and for about 5 minutes once I wanted to be a zooligist I think. But never, never a teacher…and ironically that’s what I have been doing for the past 20 years and what my heart is most contented with.

Question 4: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t be a high school art teacher” (told to me by my high school art teacher). I think as an artist we need “space” to breath, learn, think, and respond. Being a full time teacher of anything can bleed you of your motivation, our passion, and of course energy. I never wanted to be in a classroom teaching full time. I need the balance of “left brain/ right brain time”! Recently someone told me to “Never do for free what you do really well”. Again, ironically I’m a volunteer Director for a non-profit art education studio! What does that say about me? I’m still new at this “Director thing” (hahahaha!!!)

Question 5: What’s the job you’ve had (in your lifetime) that still gives you nightmares?

Having to be my own accountant and “check book balancer” and “time keeper”! I still have occasional nightmares about being the secretary/Director/PR rep/supply stocker/janitor/and teacher for a small non-profit art facility I founded…but who needs sleep anyway?

Question 6: What’s the best thing you’ve done to advance your career?

I stopped caring about making money and started thinking about what really matters. I love the saying “You only get to take with you that which you give away”. That perspective changes your life.

Question 7: Flats or heels?

Chunky, wedg-y, platform…high boot, low boot, sandal form, or “Mary Jane”…there are only HEELS. Until I have ruined my feet forever and am forced to wear orthodics and support sockings…I will wear HEELS. All other shoes are meant for jogging.

Question 8: Crying at work? Okay or not okay?

Crying only makes my contacts dry out and blurry. No point. That’s what chocolate is for! And coffee. And Netflix binging.

Question 9: Work/life balance? How do you make it work? What time do you “clock out”?

I am chronically imbalanced. It is actually a life goal I have for this year, to find some sort of “balance”. Let me know if you have any tips! I own at least 20 clocks, none of them have the same time. I like the design of clocks. TIME is an incremental way of measuring moments. This is tricky for an artist. Some moments need to last hours, some last seconds. I have difficulty organizing everything into 60 minute increments, around a 12 hour clock face. I will start sleeping around the same time I start wearing support hose and orthodics.

Question 10: Eating lunch at your desk? A do or a don’t?

Food. Who has time? Again, coffee and chocolate often suffice. I will regularly say to my kids “We need a Mom around here!”. Actually I have ALWAYS wanted my own ALICE from the Brady Bunch. She would be perfect! And balanced!

Question 11: What makes you grateful?

GOD. Everything is a gift. Every moment. Gratitude is the antidote for disappointment, dissatisfaction, isolation, envy, and plain old “grumpiness”. There is ALWAYS a perspective to be found on being thankful for what you have.

Question 12: What was your biggest blunder in a job interview? What did it teach you?

I’ve only had like 4 job interviews and I got the job each time. I avoid job interviews for fear of making blunders.

Question 13: Describe your morning routine.

I sleep until I have to be somewhere, take the kids to school, teach a class, or do errands. Considering the fact that most nights I do no go to bed before 2am, I guess you could call “morning” a subjective thing?

Question 14: Proudest career moment to date.

A local teenager has been taking Design Street classes since we opened 3 years ago. She has taken almost everything we offer and recently has started volunteering as an assistant to one of our instructors. She will often use her own money to pay for classes, always in cash. The other day I found an envelope in our drop box with registration form and cash. When I counted it I found there was more than the amount needed for enrollment. Then I noticed she had checked the small box next to the line that said “Circle the amount you’d like to donate to the Design Street scholarship fund”. She had put in an extra $20 so someone else could be able to take a class. I cried (it was worth having dry contacts).

Question 15: What’s the most important thing in your life right now?

CHRIST. Without your soul, what does any of this matter for anyway? People tend to worry about everything that does not last. Once the soul is at peace, everything else becomes temporary. Carpe Diem!

Question 16: What time did you wake up today?


Question 17: What’s the first thing you notice when you meet someone?

Temperature. Not visual, I know. But I get a temp right away (warm or cool).

Question 18: What are you reading right now?

My computer monitor (as usual). Sigh…

Question 19: In a typical day how many emails do you answer?

It could be 2 or 102. Unfortunately each e-mail usually takes me at least 20 minutes to write. (I NEED A SECRETARY. ALICE would be great.)

Question 20: What’s your favorite TV show?

SO MANY. Walking Dead (this is a show about humanity), The Leftovers (a show about humanity), Peaky Blinders (a show about humanity), Breaking BAd (was a show about humanity), Game of Thrones (a fantasy show about humanity), and the Office, Malcolm in the Middle, Bob’s Burgers (*because Humanity is so funny!)

Question 21: What’s your favorite spot for a meeting in West Michigan?

Anywhere that has good lattes and chocolate chip cookies!

Question 22: What’s your favorite app?

App? what’s an app? I would have more of them if I could ever remember my stupid ITunes password! (Where is ALICE when I need her?!!)

Question 23: What experience in life made you the most nervous?

Starting up a non-profit organization. I don’t speak “government”. It is an impossible language (ARRRRGGHHH!)

Question 24: What’s one question you always ask in an interview?

Do you like people?

Question 25: What’s the best part of your job?

Knowing I took what God gave me and found a way to give it away, and help others give their’s away too. I pray my kids learn from watching it all play out….and I pray they won’t need counseling for the rest of their lives (much).


Do you know a West Michigan Power woman who deserves to be featured in our series?  Email us her name/business and contact info!




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