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Art That Sticks: 20 Years of Tanglefoot Artists, Events

Artists Pfleghaar, Dalcher and Allen in Dalcher's studio.

Artists Pfleghaar, Dalcher and Allen in Dalcher's studio.

Underwriting support from:

Tanglefoot Studio Event

When: Friday, November 19, 5-9 PM and Sunday, November 21, noon to 5 PM

Where: Tanglefoot Building, 314 Straight Avenue SW Enter through the K door on the south side.

Details: Artists mixing and mingling in studio space; art to buy and people can make art in Elaine Dalcher's studio. Light refreshments will be served Friday and there is artist made soup for guests on Sunday. The building is wheelchair accessible.

Artist Michael Pfleghaar making art

Artist Michael Pfleghaar making art /Tanglefoot Studios

One of Elaine Dalcher's paintings

One of Elaine Dalcher's paintings

It all began in 1990, a year of fairly memorable events: Iraq invaded Kuwait, a dozen paintings were stolen from the Isabella Gardner Stewart Art Museum and South Africa freed Nelson Mandela after 27 1/2 years of imprisonment. Bette Midler won a Grammy for "Wind Beneath my Wings" and both Seinfeld and the Simpsons were launched on television. Right here in Grand Rapids artists  Michael Pfleghaar, Elaine Dalcher and Nikki Wall printed and distributed 500 postcards to announce a first-time art event they were hosting at their studios in the old Tanglefoot building.

The studio event gave the artists a chance to show a broad swath of their work, unencumbered by the editing of a gallery owner or museum curator. People would have the opportunity to mix, mingle and party inside a factory/warehouse/studio space. This was a new idea in Grand Rapids in 1990.

In the 20 years since, Grand Rapids art lovers have embraced the event and even Dalcher and Pfleghaar who work long hours to get ready for the show, admit they enjoy the preparations. "I like visiting the other artists studios before the show, meeting and making plans," said Dalcher. "I'll finally take time to visit Michael's studio and be able to see his progress during the year," she said.

The annual Tanglefoot studio show has grown from three artists to 15; the postcard print run is now 5,000 and the event attracts hundreds of people each year. "It is about sales, conversation and exposure," said Dalcher. "The work has matured over the years and the quality of the art has gone up," said Dalcher. "And the new artists that have come into the collective, really a community, help keep things fresh. Otherwise this would get stale," said Pfleghaar.

Showing this year at Tanglefoot are the original three artists and Carlos Aceves, Tommy Allen, Jeff Condon, Sandi and Tim Gunnett, Alynn Guerra, Tim LaDuke and Cathy Marashi, Scott Naylor and Brant Raterink. LaDuke, Naylor and Raterink are new to the group.

Like the sticky product made to collect pests that collect at the top of tree, the Tanglefoot artists have stuck together, too and this is what makes this artist collective special.  In 1998, Dalcher was diagnosed with lung cancer and it was Pfleghaar and the other artists in the group that rallied around her. "We been together through a lot and we know we can count on each other," she said. Allen was in a serious car accident a few years ago he awoke to find Tanglefoot artists close by. "After my accident the first people there besides Michael (Pfleghaar) was Alynn and Carlos. I was so touched. The love and support continued as my fellow artists encouraged me to come out to the Tanglefoot event just a few weeks after my accident.  I spent only a few hours there but I was touched at the number of community people who came out to see me and wish me all the best.”

This stickiness is also what makes the Tanglefoot event different than other arts events, say the artists. "People like to have a connection to the art they buy. They like to talk with the artist and know the story behind what went into the art," said Pfleghaar. "We can do that at Tanglefoot year after year."  The Tanglefoot community prides itself on its longevity, not just of the November event, but of the artists that come to the building and stay. "Artists move into the building and they stay," said Dalcher. The longevity of the Tanglefoot artists and the quality of their work has helped brand the site as an art destination. Condon has been at the site for 13 years, Allen for 10 and  Guerra and Aceves five. "I think ArtPrize honored our legacy by creating a boundary that included the building," said Pfleghaar. 

While the Tanglefoot artists work in the studio space throughout the year, each year the November show causes them to ramp up and "move from being artists to retailers," said Allen. They create new art to meet the demands and the people coming in for the show, create small items that people can easily buy and take home. Among the artworks are paintings, prints, photographs, sculpture, ceramics, tee shirts, cards and hats.

"For sure, it's a lot of work," said Pfleghaar. Neither he nor Dalcher would commit to Tanglefoot 21 in 2011. We're just excited about making it to 20. We set a goal of making it to 20 a few years back. Now that we're here we'll have to consider the future," said Dalcher.




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Wow. I knew there was a history, but not any of the details. Thanks for that context. I am really bummed I will be out of town this weekend! 

Good luck Tanglefoot!