Every year, Tanglefoot creates a homecoming for the local artist community by opening its doors and welcoming everyone into its studios.
“It’s like a family get-together, only your crazy uncle wasn’t invited,” said artist Holly Bechiri.
The event first began when three Tanglefoot artists — Elaine Dalcher, Michael Pfleghaar and Nikki Wall — decided to open up their studios and let the public in to see their work.
This was a chance for them to have complete control over the works they showed and really connect with the community. It was also a chance for guests to buy something right before the holiday season kicked off.
That first year got about 300 people.
“It was really nice and a lot more successful than we thought it would be,” Dalcher said. “The community really liked it."
As more artists came to Tanglefoot, the event got bigger, and now they’ve really grown a following for the annual event.
“It’s kind of amazing,” said Pfleghaar, who works primarily in painting and drawing. “Now, people know about it. They know it's an annual event, and stop in the store to ask when it is.”
Each year, as guests go through the building, they are met with a fresh perspective in every studio, ranging from Alynn Guerra’s printmaking to sculptures by Carlos Aceves and Jason Villareal. Other residential artists this year include Jeff Condon, Nikki Wall and Tommy Allen. The event also has snacks, if that’s a bonus for you.
“There is always something (special) about getting to peek behind the curtain and see the creative space of someone whose work you admire,” Bechiri said.
This year, guests will get an inside look at not only eight residential artists but three guest artists: Bechiri, Deborah Rockman and Sung Yi.
Dalcher said this is the first time they’ve included guest artists in nearly 20 years, but the goal is to add something new and different for visitors to check out.
Like years before, visitors will be able to get up close and personal with the pieces and talk to artists — Dalcher’s favorite part of the event and a reason Pfleghaar has returned over the years. If they feel moved, they also have the chance to purchase some work. Paintings, prints, sculptures, greeting cards, and photo-based art are all for sale.
For Bechiri, this year marks her first time as a participating artist instead of a visitor. She works in graphite, wax pastels and oils to create drawings and paintings.
“I’m hoping it will reverse my trend of buying art and turn it into selling art,” she said, laughing.
Bechiri, who has attended the event since the late ’90s, is hugely flattered that she was asked to join because she’s always been in awe of the Tanglefoot artists and the works they produce.
She doesn’t seem to be the only one, considering this anniversary makes it the longest-running open studio event in the greater Grand Rapids area. Dalcher said in the beginning they weren’t really thinking about how many years they would be doing this event. Now, they can’t imagine going a year without.
“It’s quite a bit of work, but we enjoy the process of putting on a show and inviting the community in,” said Dalcher, who creates oil paintings and has new work focused on landscapes.
It has become a vital event for the artist community, the planners said.
Pfleghaar said their event has even inspired a few others to put on something similar. He doesn’t consider it competition, but something that helps everyone.
“I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “It creates more opportunities for artists in the end.”
The event has created a legacy, a concept that Dalcher really wanted to embrace for this year’s event since it may be the last in its current environment. The building was recently bought by new owners who may move the artists into different, smaller spaces in the building.
Dalcher said nothing is for sure in regard to what the new owners plan to do, but they do seem to value what the artists have created. Even if they do move, the likelihood of the community continuing to show up seems high.
“This event brings together the idea of the power of art and community,” Dalcher said. “If we didn’t have the community response that we have had to our event, then we wouldn’t be partners in it. They can’t do it without us, we can’t do it without them.”
Tanglefoot Artists Open Studio Event 2018
314 Straight Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Nov. 16, 5-9 p.m.
Nov. 18, 12-5 p.m.