by Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor Newspapers
The thriving arts community in Hopkins is welcoming a new addition — Zeller Studio, home to the Minnesota Figure Study Collaborative, Dec. 1 with an official ribbon cutting event.
Owner Deb Zeller has deep roots in the Hopkins community, playing an unofficial role in making Hopkins Artstreet a success.
When Hopkins was just beginning to consider the Artstreet concept, Zeller stepped in to offer some guidance, since she had previously had participated in the Sculpture Walk in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“They created a model that lot of different cities have emulated,” Zeller said. “I think Hopkins has kicked off one of the better programs. They do a really great job.”
Zeller has since had her own work featured in ArtStreet, with her sculpture, Goddess of the Grapes, receiving the People’s Choice award at a previous year’s event.
A native of Victoria, Zeller has been an artist since she received a set of oil paints at age 13.
What she’s best known for, however, is sculpting, with commissioned and original works featured at installations across the United States and Canada.
For that, Zeller has the local art community to thank, since it was a class at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts that started her sculpting career.
“It was a fantastic way to start and learn about sculpting,” Zeller said. “I immediately thought ‘I should have been doing this a long time ago!’ I found my passion. It was the best thing I ever started.”
When the Minnetonka foundry closed, Zeller felt driven to continue the work and help others do the same.
“I could not live without bronze,” she said.
Zeller then started the Bronze Buddies sculpting group in a small studio at her home, modified from an unused storage room.
“All these years later we still meet every single Monday,” Zeller said.
But one art group wasn’t enough to meet Zeller’s high-energy artistic needs.
She became interested in figure drawing at the recommendation of a friend, as a way to improve her sculptures. A friend introduced her to the collaborative, and she quickly became a dedicated member.
“I never missed a session. I was always there and I was there early,” Zeller said, making her a perfect person to help when the group’s founder needed a back-up manager. “I loved being able to help because the collaborative was filling a huge need for me.”
Zeller eventually took over the collaborative when the previous owner moved out of state and appointed Zeller to take her place.
“I was proud to be able to run it,” Zeller said.
At that time, the collaborative was run out of a studio in the North Loop neighborhood in Minneapolis. When the space was sold, Zeller was prompted to search elsewhere for a place for MNFSC.
“I could not bear the thought of losing the group, so I went on a search for the perfect location,” Zeller said. “I wanted it to be vital and close to the Twin Cities. Hopkins just fit the bill in every way.”
Zeller closed on the space in October, and was able to move the group into the new studio so that not a single weekly session had to be cancelled.
Now that MNFSC is based in Hopkins, with plenty of parking and the Center for the Arts nearby, Zeller said she hopes to attract even more people to the group, including both experienced and aspiring artists.
“Any person who wants to draw or paint from live models is welcome to attend,” Zeller said. “The group is very, very welcoming to new people … it has become a really wonderful, nurturing community.”
While drop-ins are welcome, Zeller said members benefit from discounted fees with a 10-week commitment to either full- or half-day sessions. Subscribers also have the opportunity to feature their work in one of the galleries at Zeller Studio.
The weekly Wednesday sessions now typically have about 14 regular members, Zeller said, a number which has doubled since the venue moved to Hopkins.
“I am convinced that there was a need for this in the western suburbs,” she said. “Now it has a new home in Hopkins.”
The move will also come full circle with the return of Zeller’s original Goddess sculpture to Hopkins in May, after a stint in Hutchinson.
“She is going to be a permanent part of Hopkins Artstreet,” Zeller said. “It’s really exciting,”
Zeller said she’s not only thrilled to have the Goddess back in Hopkins, but also to be there herself.
“Hopkins is so arts-friendly … it all came together and worked out perfectly.” she said. “It’s an absolute dream come true for me.”
According to Mayor Molly Cummings, the feeling is mutual.
“We feel very strongly that the arts are just an important part of the fabric of our community,” the mayor said at the ribbon-cutting event for the studio. “Zeller Studio is wonderful because … we have been looking for way to continue to expand the influence of the arts here and the studio does that wonderfully. I think she adds a whole other dimension to the art programs that we’re doing in our city.”
Contact Gabby Landsverk at [email protected]