Category Archives: the Art Talk

Tanglefoot 22



I do not think that when the original founding artists of the Tanglefoot building on the city’s southwest side held its first open studio public event any of them really expected that 22 events later and in 2013 they would still be celebrating this phenomena.

What is a constant in this event is the reality that no matter who is involved whether it be any of the remaining founding members like Elaine Dalcher, who has exhibited all 22 times, or its newest member Jason Villareal, the Tanglefoot Building open artists studio event is the unofficial kick off to the holiday season.

Each year people line the hallways and venture to the many studios contained within meeting the artists or navigating the new displays of art in the hopes of securing an original piece for their home or as a gift.







As one of the organizers of this event over the last decade, I have come to think on this once a year special event as a sort of homecoming for our clients and friends (and sometimes the embodiment of both) as we open our doors but also our lives to an ever eager public hoping to explore this celebration of our local art culture.

But as I surveyed the faces this year, something remarkable has emerged as I noticed more fresh faces than familiar. Over the years I have come to recognize that this steady growth in our population numbers is a good indication that the city is changing as we hear folks sharing all the time that someone new has moved into their neighborhood or have just “joined our firm.”

As the artists of Tanglefoot dined at Grand Rapids Brewing Company Sunday night after their event and as they compared notes, this observation was repeated by all. It made me smile for a host of reasons.






One, it is always good to see new faces at a legacy event such as Tanglefoot entering its third decade. It points to the fact that folks whether brand new or unfamiliar with what we have created over the years collectively are feeling confident in their own skin veering off the well-worn path to embark on whole new adventures in our city.

But with the increase in numbers comes an opportunity to share the personal stories of our local artists with a much wider audience.  And this is the power of art that finds that audience as Tanglefoot has done for decades. Finding that commonality of shared experience is what makes art so important in many of our lives.

Folks who have visited Tanglefoot over the years know very well from engaging in our space that these places are not just where art is created but place-making can take hold.




Through these connections we find those items that bind us together as a community but also a reason to feel more at home at the city we are all a part of now and through the years.  Sometimes a gallery opening is a time to discover new art and sometimes it is a place where community connections to last decades lone are unearthed making all of us feel a bit more at home with each other.

Note: Tanglefoot 22 is an annual open studio holiday event. For the 2013 event,  more than 20 artists were represented including founding artists Elaine Dalcher and Nikki Wall along with Tommy Allen, Jeff Condon, Alynn Guerra, Carlos Aceves, Jason Villareal, Steff Condon, and Gretchen Deems.

Also on display this year were visiting artists from the Dinderbeck Collective and The Happi Ness Project by Mark Rumsey (2013-14 Guest Fellow of the Allen + Pfleghaar Studio at Tanglefoot.)


Inaugural Exhibition: 90 Years of Collecting



Calvin College
October 18, 2012

Calvin College will be inaugurating its 10th president, Michael K. Le Roy, on Saturday, October 20, and in the week leading up to this event, there were celebrations occurring throughout campus. Thursday night was the reception for the Inaugural Exhibition: 90 Years of Collecting, a way for the art community at Calvin College to welcome the newest president and celebrate his arrival.

The college began its permanent collection in 1922 with “A Portrait of John Calvin,” a gift from William Monsma, who had re-created the painting originally painted by French artist Ary Scheffer. The second gift, a painting by Mathias Alten, came from the class of 1926 and is considered one of the best paintings in the entire collection.

Pieces by Rembrandt and Calder are among the 54 that are part of the exhibition, which represent the best of Calvin’s 1,500 piece permanent collection. They are all located in the Center Art Gallery on Calvin’s campus. The exhibit opened on September 4, and will be open through Saturday, the day of the inauguration. There will be pieces that remain on display in the permanent collection gallery through May 2013.

Incoming president Le Roy said, “In the process of discerning my fit for Calvin College, I was immediately drawn to Calvin’s mission of engaging all of God’s creation, particularly its intentional and exceptional inclusion of creativity and art in that engagement. It’s so fitting that this exhibition be part of this fall’s celebration and this week’s events.”

Congratulations to President Le Roy and best wishes in your new role at Calvin College. If you are interested in seeing the Inaugural Exhibition: 90 Years of Collecting, you can do so by visiting during the Center Gallery’s hours: Friday, 9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m., and Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. The gallery is located in Calvin College’s Covenant Fine Arts Center, 1795 Knollcrest Circle, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

To learn more about Calvin College’s Center Art Gallery, visit their website:
Find them on Facebook:

The ArtPrize 2012 Short List



Last evening, we attended the ArtPrize 2012 Short List event at The Hub an event designed to announce the Top 25 by popular vote “public” so far, plus the Top 5 juried pieces in five categories. There are only two works that were listed by both out of the 1,517 entries.

The exciting part about the announcement is that the public Top 25 short list can still change as first round voting continues through Saturday. The first round of popular voting ends at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, and the Top 10 finalists will be announced at 1 p.m. Sunday at Rosa Parks Circle.

In all, $560,000 in total prize money - $360,000 awarded by public vote, $200,000 awarded by a select group of art experts.

The winners of ArtPrize 2012 will be announced in on October 5 at 8 p.m.

Top 25

“A Second Chance at Life” by Gary and Travis Fields – Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

“Bam Pow” by Nathan Craven at Grand Rapids Art Museum

“Cities:Departure and Deviation” by Norwood Viviano at Grand Rapids Art Museum

“City Band” by Chris LaPorte at Grand Rapids Art Museum

“Disposable Game” by Terry Brennan at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

“Elephants” Adonna Khare at Grand Rapids Art Museum

“Gravity Matters Little” by Henry Brimmer at Select Bank

“Heavy Metal Rock Band” by Fred Conlon at The B.O.B.

“Life in Wood” by Dan Heffron at The B.O.B.

“Norm” by John Andrews at Barnes & Thornburg LLP

“On Thin Ice” by Justin La Doux at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

“Origami” by Kumi Yamashita at GRAM

“Plexus No. 18” by Gabriel Dawe at Kendall College of Art and Design

“Rebirth of Spring” by Frits Hoendervanger at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

“Return to Eden” by Sandra Bryant at Grand Rapids Public Museum

“Running on Air” by Jessica Bohus at DeVos Place Convention Center

“Scrappie Dick” by Paul Cassidy – The B.O.B.

“Seasons” by Ann Loveless at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

“Sojourn” by Andrea Kowch at GRAM

“Song of Lift” by Martijn van Wagtendonk at UICA

“Stick-to-it-ive-ness: Unwavering pertinacity; perseverance” by Richard Morse at Grand River

“Studies in Light and Form The Chicago Seven and Michigan Avenue Bridge Sculptures” by Jack Nixon at DeVos Place Convention Center

“The Chase” by Artistry of Wildlife (Dennis Harris, Paul Thompson, Andrew Harris, Joseph Miles and Jamie Outman) at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

“The Dragon” by Robin Protz at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

“The Penguin Project” by Paul Nilsson at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

The finalists for the juried awards in five categories (2D art, 3D art, time/performance, urban space and outstanding venue) were announced:

 Best 2D Work: Juror: Tyler Green, columnist, Modern Painters magazine

“Disabilities and Sexuality” by Robert Coombs – Fountain Street Church

“East View 1” by Connor Foy – Pub 43

“Father’s Fathers” by Gudmundur Thoroddsen – SITE: LAB

“Habitat” by Alois Kronschlaeger – SITE: LAB

“Identity Process Kings Queens” by Lora Robertson – Fountain Street Church


Best Three-Dimensional Work – Juror: Lisa Frieman, chair, contemporary department, Indianapolis Museum of Art

“Collective Cover Project” by Ann Morton – UICA

“Habitat” Alois Kronschlaeger – SITE: LAB

“More or Less” by ABCD 83 – UICA

“Mr. Weekend” by Mike Simi – Kendall

“Song of Lift” by Martijn van Wagtendonk – UICA 


Best Time-Based and Performance work – Amy Wilson spoke on behalf of the Juror Cathy Edwards, director of Perf. Programs, International Festival of Arts & Ideas

“Drawing Apparatus” by Robert Howsare – GRAM

“Mr. Weekend” by Mike Simi – Kendall

“Public Museum” by Gary Schwartz – SITE: LAB

“Three Phases” by Complex Movements – SITE: LAB

“Whole” by Hillerbrand and Magsamen – Kendall


Best Use of Urban Space – Juror: Susan Szenasy, editor-in-chief, Metropolis magazine

“Bell on Wheels” by Chip VanderWier – St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

“Flight” by Dale Roger – Ah-Nab-Awen Park

“Installation” by Katharine Renee Gaudy – Ottawa-Fulton Parking Ramp

“10000 Hours La Grande Vitesse” by Laura Isaac – Calder Plaza

“Stick-to-it-ive-ness: Unwavering pertinacity; perseverance” by Richard Morse – in the Grand River


Best Venue – Juror: Tom Eccles, Director, the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard CollegeCalvin College – (106) Gallery

[Fashion Has Heart]

Fountain Street Church

SiTE:LAB at 54 Jefferson

Take Hold Church


Keemo — “Check Your Guns At the Door”


At Keemo’s request, we checked our guns at the door of Richard App Gallery, and inside the miracle of art unfolded.

James Magee is an artist with several alter-egos. Annabel Livermore, the librarian and painter from Newaygo County, is the most famous. He sculpts under his personal name, James Magee. In Magee’s imagination lives a fellow named Horace Mayfield, an untrained artist who makes assemblages out of found objects and recovered Salvation Army paintings. Thus, it is a fair question to ask Keemo who else creates art in his studio. Keemo answered simply, “It is just me. One man, one pseudonym, many colors.” Keemo creates almost 400 works of art a year, most of which sell, so one is compelled to wonder if there’s a school of Keemo. Andy Warhol ran a factory staffed by his superstars to assist in the creation of silk screens and films.

With Keemo, there’s no question that he works mostly alone. Keemo has boundless energy, demonstrated by the total gutting of his studio following his Thursday night opening. Completing his fourth decade, the painter and sculptor is riding a growth spurt that began in 2009, which raises an important question. What will Keemo accomplish in his next three decades? Although Keemo’s show, “Check Your Guns At the Door” was billed as a pop up show, it is more a pop up guidebook to the next three decades of his artistic career.

Keemo has written a book, We Are All Here and That Is Just How It Is, providing stories for works composed between 2008 to 2010. Each of the fifty paintings has a companion typewritten story. Keemo talked about his method for incorporating text into his paintings. “I have a 1951 Royal Speed King. I often use it in pieces, where I’ll type onto the paper and then add some paint. For these pieces, I never pre-write the words. I just type it up directly on the painting, mistakes and all and just see what comes out.” The titles from the show read as a series of Zen Koans. All Things Grow From The Hole Where My Heart Was. With Each Breath Know The Balance Is Complete. I Have Learned to Stop Counting My Days Before I Have Counted Them All.

Keemo promised to present a painting incorporating a love poem, and the verse became an audience favorite Thursday night. It could be said Keemo arrived Thursday night with a love story, bringing his wife, Aimee, his high school sweetheart from Jenison High school to the opening. His daughter, Alisha, brought a friend, and the two sported dresses of different patterns, made from a fabric dotted with a matching animal icon. The artist greeted endless friends and well-wishers who arrived to view his work and engage him in conversation. Yet, he had time to meet personally with his collectors in Richard App’s office to review commissions.

Keemo had no idea Thursday night as his family left Richard App Gallery at twilight that his collection would become topical in the conversation to end massacres forever. He had painted on a variety of gun targets easily purchased from online sources and shipped to Keemo’s studio. With names such as split second, head shot, critical impact zone and anatomy targets, James Eagan Holmes, the highly educated shootist, might have trained his deadly aim on variations of these firing range targets. Keemo appropriated these targets and turned them to humane, ironic purposes. He has left the coding visible when painting on the targets. A shot to K5 D2, on the abdomen below the heart, could cause deadly internal bleeding. A shot to K2 D4, the left elbow, could disable a less berserk gunman and prompt a surrender. Great artists respond to mere wrinkles in our cultural fabric, a kind of telepathy with paint, and what Keemo paints we must take seriously from now onward. Ignore at humanity’s own risk. Treat them with the seriousness accorded an all-points bulletin.

The show contained affordable art and advanced works, such as “There Is This World And Then There Is Us”. Painted on a two headed target designed to charge up the firing range, Keemo’s paint transformed this into a face card from an old-fashioned deck. Keemo described his painting in an email correspondence. “It … is a portrait of love and relationships. I could go more into all the identifiers, such as the heart spilling over, the arm wrapped around, the ears listening to each other, … but I think you probably get the idea. Even though it was born from some place personal, aren’t they all, I do think that it extends beyond my own relationship and translates into others as well.”

Keemo makes subtle quotes of visual material. Always be on the look for a David Lynch angle. Thursday night’s show always had FBI Special Agent Dale Bartholomew Cooper not far from the surface. When a Keemo character appears wearing a twin peaked cap, open a copy of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and compare against the ears. Keemo also painted a few items from nature, including a bear entitled, The Manifestation of Ideas. For Keemo, the bear is “a nod to the birth, storage and expression of ideas. Particularly, to the area deep inside where ideas are stored for a long time and ruminate and then eventually show themselves in some form, at least for me.” When you see Keemo’s bear, reference a picture of the bear on the California flag. When you see a white faced character wearing a military hat, imagine Marilyn Manson and the Golden Age of Grotesque.

Rhonda Solomon responded strongly to Keemo’s work. Solomon practices as an interior designer and owns Canary Home Studio, a design studio and textiles library connected to the East Hills Business District in Grand Rapids. She pointed out the cubist nature of Keemo’s work, and his bold use of original colors. To add to Solomon’s observation, Keemo’s handling of the human face pushes facial signifiers to the edge of easy recognition, and in our viewing, that extra moment evokes the subconscious. The approach quotes the paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, who composed faces of fruits, vegetables and fish.

Richard App Gallery has two chambers that work well for weddings, lectures and networking mixers. During the Keemo exhibition, his east gallery hosted a separate networking event for the Uptown Business District, led by Mark C. Lewis of Neighborhood Ventures. The community furnished a splendid table. Blue Door Antiques offered three extravagant Bloody Mary cocktails, the York Harbor with lobster and wasabi, the Wake Up Crabby with Shrimp and Crab, and a traditional Bootlegger. The owner of Blue Door Antiques, Joel Carrier, added a historical character by mixing them with award winning Vodka Monopolowa, a modestly priced vodka made from an old world recipe, a distillation that was once the monopoly vodka of Communist Poland. Amy Ruis of Art of the Table, where she hosts winemakers and brewmasters weekly, provided a selection of fine wines and flavored ice teas. Karen and Ken Bryan of Making Thyme Kitchen brought hummus and unusual dipping items, including thick slices of red cabbage. The table was rounded out with stacks of Solace Magazine and copies of the Local First directory, which vanished before the selection of Brewery Vivant microbrews on ice depleted. Representing the Uptown Business District as a health destination, Kat McKinney of the Yoga Studio, Rachel Zylstra of Hop Scotch Children’s Store and Dr. Doug DeVries and Kristin Swann of Eastown Chiropractic and Acupuncture answered many questions on new approaches to wellness.

We checked our guns at the door of Richard App Gallery, and inside the miracle of art unfolded. Two artists, Victoria Mullen and David R. Mullen arrived to tour the gallery. Although the pair are no longer married, they share time together as friends. Next week, Victoria will attend David’s wedding. Erin Haehnel reclined on a chaise lounge, and with Rosemary Ellis‘ bubble paintings in the background, her friend Marjorie Yost captured the beautiful moment on film. The artist Anthony Carpenter held court among Keemo’s paintings, and one of his models, Amy Armstrong, mingled with her friends and made new ones. Heidi Stukkie, journalist and creative with Zia Creative, had a chance to catch up with art collector Eddie Tadlock, subject of a profile she wrote for Stellafly Social Media. Likewise, social media strategist Laura Bergells visited to take a quick turn through the beautiful pictures and missed Michele Sellers, another subject of a Stellafly profile authored by Bergells. In these ways and uncounted others, inside the Richard App Gallery, the miracle of art, peace and community unfolded.


Richard Negre Can Bring Anything to Life Through Animation and Imagination


Richard Negre has placed thousands of miles on his airline loyalty card this year. February found him in Tokyo for the Japan Media Arts Festival. April found him in Spain for the Mecal Festival Internacional de Cortometrajes de Barcelona, a trip home for him since Barcelona and Paris have been twin homes all his life. In this regard, he is the same as Picasso, a man of France rooted in Spain. Late May found him in Zagreb, Croatia for Animafest. Next week will find him in Australia for the Melbourne Animation Festival. Fall will find him in Britain for the London International Animation Festival. This week in June has brought Negre to Western Michigan, where he has achieved a triple crown, celebrated as an honored guest at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and the Grand Rapids Art Museum after opening an exhibition at the Fire Barn Gallery, a gallery sponsored by the Grand Haven ArtWalk.

An animator with four films on his vita and a fifth film in three dimensional color in production, Negre has promised to make the evenings at UICA and GRAM entirely different, deep examinations of the essential nature of animation, with different films screened each night. A film on the making of Une Seconde Par Jour will be screened at UICA. Negre’s first award winning film, featuring his highly sought after paintings exhibited at Parisian galleries, will be screened at GRAM. The GRAM presentation leads into a reception at Cygnus 27, on the 27th and 28th floors of the Amway Grand Hotel. Negre has astounding powers of conversation; his skills and perception will lead to fascinating conversation as one gazes over the sea of lights. He has a way to make each conversation count. Remember, Richard Negre can animate anything. Read onward.

Negre has studied at the Gobelins School of Animation in Paris as well as the Disney Studio of Montreuil, France. Even more, the entire month of May, he shared a residency in animation at the Abbaye de Fontevraud in Anjou, France, discussing and collaborating with animators from all over the world.The animator from China saw Une Seconde Par Jour, and suggested how the film could be developed merely by changing the camera’s viewpoint, and that insight made Negre think “Eureka”! However, following Christo’s gamebook, Negre funded the production of this animated short by selling the cells to a worldwide league of collectors. Negre has been astounded by the hundreds of clever ways members of his guild have achieved animative effects. An animator in South Africa has produced an animated movie on a single sheet of paper. A second animator stunned Negre with an animated movie scratched onto black, exposed film stock. If you are looking for a breakthrough in animation, Negre’s talks are for you.

The story of Negre’s visit is more than that of a world class artist leaving a trail of inspired West Michigan artists, although that effect began Wednesday night. It is a story of lifelong friendship between two painters who love the Old Masters, with Chris Protas holding up standards in West Michigan. Protas and Negre met over a decade ago while painting in a gallery of Old Masters in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, striking up a conversation. When Protas visited Negre in the Montparnasse enclave of Paris, intending to paint together, Protas discovered a historical marker on Negre’s studio. The studio, preserved to remember the presence of the Eighteenth and Nineteeth centuries, had served as studio to Modigliani and Gauguin. To welcome Negre to Grand Haven, Protas labored long into the night to hang the more than 150 pen and ink stills, numbered and dated, on the east wall of the Fire Barn Gallery, suspending the artifacts a foot before the wall on rails of white twine.

To arrange Negre’s visit to West Michigan, Protas called upon the resources of the Loutit Foundation and the Grand Haven Art Walk, establishing what has become the ArtWalk’s first artist-in-residence program. Wednesday night, Protas read from prepared remarks to introduce his friend and his work as an animator, moving remarks that celebrated an international friendship through the arts. Protas will be introducing Negre at UICA and GRAM, and his essay proves him to be one of our lakeshore’s leading thinkers on the philosophy of art. Protas cultivates artistic friendships with the same ardor he collects lost art and pictures of street art. In February 2012, his audience at the Fire Barn Gallery was delighted to meet a collaborator from Brooklyn, Jason Eisner, who brought his “On The Road” series of paintings. The schedule of the Fire Barn Gallery has been planned a year into the future, with surprises Protas keeps for the right moment.

It would be a spoiler to describe the experience of viewing Une Seconde Par Jour with the filmmaker present. Keep in mind that the filmmaker has roots in Spanish and French culture, and these cultures emerge in the animated short as a living presence. It would be a spoiler also to describe the experience of conversing with Richard Negre, who has the ability to listen with genuine attention. Negre reads voraciously the works of a local author when visiting a region, focusing on the works of Jim Harrison for West Michigan. This is the point where he draws you into his project. What is that project? Imagine that he attends his evenings with scraps of papers and a four-color ink pen. And remember, Richard Negre can animate anything and has a mission to capture time.

To be sure of the schedule, Richard Negre presents Thursday, June 14th at UICA, at 7:00 PM, a free screening. Negre’s presentation at UICA maintains the institution’s commitment to bringing award winning filmmakers to their auditorium, following on the visit of Oscar winning documentarian Daniel Junge in early May. UICA might seem to struggle; yet, the film auditorium is the vital heart of the institution where the stalwarts have chosen to rally. Negre presents as part of the Friday Night Conversation series at GRAM, Friday, June 15 at 7:00 PM.

Michigan Beach Polo — A Beautiful Day at the Beach for a Wonderful Cause


Every summer gala celebrated under the blue sky of June echoes the legendary Camp du Drap d’Or, or the Field of the Cloth of Gold. A festival that began June 7, 1520, Cardinal Wolsey, Papal Legate of Leo the Tenth, gathered the royal courts of Henry the Eight of England and Frances the First of France to the fields of Balinghem, France, celebrating a 1514 treaty that gave hope for the eternal end of aggression between European nations. Observed with courtly fashion, toasts drawn from fountains of wine, the finest French cuisine before Escoffier and royal games from wrestling to the equestrian sport of jousting, the tents and clothing woven from silk and gold thread gave the first peace festival of Europe its name and marked the rise of the Renaissance. Perhaps as ill-fated an effort as the League of Nations, the Field of the Cloth of Gold allowed the nations of the world to focus less on war and focus more upon more cunning and fitting opponents, such as the scourge of children’s cancer, which Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital fights every day.

In 2011, the shining children’s hospital high on Medical Hill treated 8253 children in the hospital, serving them with age-appropriate medical equipment, children specialists and extra nurses and staff on all fourteen floors. Thousands more are treated on an out-patient basis. Although no royals attended the beach polo event Saturday, June 9, 2012, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital was represented by two young ladies who have been fighting cancer in a noble match. One of the two, Brooke Elizabeth Hester journaled about her experience at the beach polo match on her Caring Bridge blog, with her mother’s assistance. Hester has fought back against cancer daily since a diagnosis of stage IV neuroblastoma at age three and a half, a fight chronicled on BrookeFightsBack.Org. Every strike of the polo mallet and goal scored honored their courage, one young lady sporting flip-up pink sunglasses and one young lady wearing a white beach hat. Every dollar raised by the 150 VIP guests and 300 guests around the sand arena went to continue the campaign against children’s cancer.

Hundreds of beach visitors tanning on towels or lawn chairs enjoyed the spectacle free of admission fee, and dwellers of the beach houses on an overlooking sand bluff enjoyed the rare spectacle from their decks. Protected from the brisk wind and the sunshine of a cloudless day by a long tent with windows, VIP guests enjoyed a feast catered by the Gilmore Collection, whose team worked out of a small tent kitchen. Guests quenched their thirst with Michigan wines and beers brewed by New Holland Brewing Company. Absent the fountains of wine, magnums of Veuve Clicquot filled in nicely. Greenery and small trees from Thornapple River Nursery reminded guests of a summer field in Northern France.

When it comes to collegiate polo between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, the Great Divide doesn’t exist. During collegiate competitions on the grounds of the Detroit Polo Club in Hartland, Michigan, Spartans saddle up with Wolverines for the common cause of victory. On Saturday, the Spartans and Wolverines shared tents and sold one another’s tee shirts, sold out by game time, to customers on the sidewalk side of a light woven fence around the compound. With the assistance of professionals from Meadowview Farm, the collegians cared for more than two dozen ponies who had arrived in silver trailers, preparing fresh mounts for the professional polo players for the upcoming chukkers.

Not only did the students wrap the ankles of ponies and braid and tape tails, a team with shovels scooped up horse apples immediately and filled in sand holes dug by hooves enjoying cool, damp sand. Few if any flies appeared to harass the ponies. The two Big Ten rivals faced off in a fifteen minute exhibition match, anticipating official matches during the season, including the Polo in the Pavilion event held annually on the MSU Campus. A match of four chukkers can be played in under an hour; the year round practices and daily care of a team of thirteen to fifteen ponies takes place at the equestrian estates of sponsors, the Spartans at Massman Stables in Mason and Wolverines at Paragon Farm in Ann Arbor.

Like a sand zamboni, an International 884 Tractor and rake smoothed the trampled sand between chukkers for the safety of ponies and riders. In the professional game between Blue and White, the students cheered as their coaches and trainers faced off on the sand, refereed by Les Johnson, owner of Meadowview Farms of Lowell, Michigan. Wearing many hats, Johnson worked closely behind the scenes with his daughter, Katie Johnson, whose firm, Michigan Polo Events, produced the event.

Kev Couture, a fashion stylist based in Grand Rapids, protected his models in an air-conditioned Sandpiper recreational vehicle towed to the beach by a Dodge Ram 2500 HD. Assisted by intern Stephanie Hanlin, Couture presented a show of models dressed in beach and summer attire, most looks available locally from two boutiques and three designers, including outfits from Sydney’s Boutique. Between chukker one and two of the professional game, his barefoot models sashayed down a runway of sugar sand, energized by the smooth, summer rhythms of Jenny Disko‘s turntable mix. The guests of the VIP section dressed for the occasion in spring hats and summer dresses, and Couture could have selected every guests for his runway.

Abigayle Sloan, on her first walk down a runway, stunned in a diaphanous silk weave with hand painted floral elements, worn over a yellow swim suit, an outfit created by Kirk Johnson of b-Vain Couture. A second model graced the show with an original summer soiree dress in ivory with black accents, a design from the spring-summer line of Adriana Pavon, who attended at Couture’s invitation. Attired in a yellow polo shirt and smart white slacks, Couture had the pleasure of escorting Katie Johnson along the runway, the producer who wore an off-the-shoulder gown in coral, retro sunglasses and a Brixton straw fedora. Couture celebrated the show’s triumph by burning up the internet with picture posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A man with a voice as pleasant as that of Ernie Harwell‘s, Jerry Hutchinson called the play by play, easing the audience into the language of polo with its bumps, ride offs and hooks. Hutchinson was delighted when the chukker ball, then a yellow volleyball from Meijers, was knocked into the VIP section and returned to play by a woman in a wide brimmed sunhat. He delighted when the Blue Team, sponsored by Boutique Emmanuel, scored a last chance goal against the White Team, sponsored by Commando Lock Company, sealing the victory of Boutique Emmanuel with 4 goals over 3. Hutchinson has served as a leader with the Detroit Polo Club, and he has promoted polo as an accessible sport for young people and collegians, a more inclusive sport he helped reach the beach at Pere Marquette.

In a moving ceremony on the red carpet, the two young ladies from the children’s hospital assisted in presenting the trophy cup to the victorious team from Boutique Emmanuel. The two received toy ponies from the riders, a My Little Pony plush for Brooke, as a thank you for representing all the patients who receive advanced cancer therapies at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Afterwards, the older of the two sat upon one of Pere Marquette’s blue benches and gazed at the ponies, hugging her pony statue. The crews worked hard to unravel the braided tails, unwrap the ankles and prepare the ponies for a long trip home to Lowell, Mason and Ann Arbor. Nikki Boon and her band presented a concert as the guests mingled, posed for pictures with horses and players.

Saturday showed Muskegon in the glory of late spring. The Milwaukee Clipper, a treasure from Muskegon’s heritage as a steamship port, welcomed visitors to tour its restored art deco chambers. Home of the USS Silversides Submarine from World War II, the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum on the Lake Muskegon channel hosted the Women of Michigan Brunch, a motivational prelude, offered free to reserved guests, proceeding the polo match.

Not only did the Lake Express arrive to harbor in the final minutes of the beach polo event, the Lake Michigan horizon hazy with heat, on the eastern shore of Lake Muskegon, Miss Michigan Elizabeth Wertenberger and Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen Marissa Cowans led sixty contestants and guests to a Royal Dance Mob on the Olthoff Stage of downtown’s Third Street Promenade, wearing real crowns awarded by the scholarship competition. The Dance Mob featured the music of Journey, the anthem, “Don’t Stop Believing”, a theme song for Wertenberger. The weekend of Saturday, June 16th, a new Miss Michigan will be crowned upon the stage of the Muskegon’s Frauenthal Theater.

As the golden sun set on this Saturday, the Ninth of June, inside a great tent with high ceilings from Redi-Rental, six-hundred and fifty supporters of the Muskegon Museum of Art sat down to dinner to celebrate the museum’s centennial year. The dinner set a record as Muskegon’s largest outdoor, plated dinner. Over at the downtown Holiday Inn, Nikki Boon and her band entertained the equestrian set at a watch party to celebrate the 144th running of the Belmont Stakes.

The 84th Annual Region Exhibition at the Muskegon Museum of Art


If you are looking for a ticket to the 100th Anniversary Gala at the Muskegon Museum of Arts, June 9th, 2012, a wait list for cancellations has already been started. The supporters of the museum had first option at those tickets, receiving invitations addressed by a calligrapher’s hand. The base has been very active. Fulfilling on a seven year plan, the supporters of the shoreline art museum have risen to the occasion by donating 114 new acquisitions, “pictures of the best kind”, far exceeding expectations. Works by Annabel LivermoreGeary Jones and Frank Connet, all subjects of major exhibits in the last five years, will be available for viewing in 2112, among artists of significant reputation.

Last Thursday, the museum opened its regional exhibition to the public, the longest running regional exhibition in Michigan. In honor of the centennial, the 84th Annual Exhibition opened the competition to all Michigan artists. Over five artists answered the call from the Detroit metropolitan area, and 361 artists hand delivered 633 works of art to the downtown museum, almost 100 more works of art than the 83rd Regional Exhibition received.

The Regional Exhibition for the Festival of the Art received 75 more works of art as entries than Muskegon, 708 works of art compared to 633. Spring has been a good season for art in West Michigan, with 1341 works of art showing up for the consideration of four busy jurors as ArtPrize matches artists to almost 200 venues. Andrew Winship of the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis reviewed all the works of art for the Muskegon show. In Grand RapidsTim FisherLora Robertson and Ron Pederson performed the honors, Fisher for painting, Robertson for photography and Pederson for three dimensional and multi-media works. Many artists had the honor of exhibiting in the two regionals, including ceramic artist Maggie Bandstra of Grand Haven.

Two men on a lean team of art professionals often described as “consummate”, Preparator Keith Downie and Collections Manager Art Martin made it possible for Muskegon to exhibit 217 works in 2012, 24 more than 2011. With a team of handy locals, the two built a curved center wall in the museum’s extension for the 56 paintings from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a show titled 1934: A New Deal for Artists. The intake team led by the pair have made it possible for the Muskegon Regional to continue a live intake, kicked off by a Thursday May 10th, 2012 salon where scores of artists carried in their works of art, which the preparation team displayed salon style. Volunteer William L. “Bill” Rogers assisted by carrying larger works up the stairs. Theologian Michael Robertson, also known in musical circles as Mandolin Mike, brought in two portraits he had painted as a student at an art school in Muskegon’s lakeside district for the Thursday salon, but declined to leave them for jurying into the exhibition.

The exhibition welcomed the public with Shell, the Best of Show entry by Michael Pfleghaar on the first wall, its arcs in turquoise accented by the Indiana limestone curves of Jason Quigno‘s sculpture, Open Flight. Picking up the theme of curvature, Jane Horn‘s Smokin’ featured a pastel still life composed of a fish bowl and a round orange viewed through the bowl. Pfleghaar’s AHA, a study in red, was placed as close as possible on the back of an adjacent wall, an image made popular during Pfleghaar’s GRAM exhibitReinforcing Objecthood, on view during the reign of Rauschenberg in Grand Rapids.

Although hard to pin down, the scheme of the exhibition placed works in topical groups, with historical muralist Larry Blovits anchoring a wall of portraits with a pastel likeness of Mary RademacherMissy Morrow carried the theme of birds with an acrylic work entitled Michigan Songbird Mandala, presenting a score of bird miniatures. I.N.R.I. – In Need of Rescue Immediately by Nancy Wanha of Cedar Springs continued the avian theme, presenting a headdress of eagle feathers, and gave a Native American presence to the regional, supported by the work of Jason Quigno.

The Muskegon regional must be viewed with an eye to connection. Chris Laporte’s Funeral Drawing, a work of pencil on paper, connected the show to last year’s ArtPrizeNick Antonakis‘ oil from his Tour Bus to Athens series connected to Grand Rapids Community College, where he has taught, and to the Newaygo County Artsplace, where he exhibited the series in depth. Photographer John S. Zielinski displayed a photograph titled, My Homestead, that featured his favorite model, his wife Sarah Zielinski amid a vegetable garden on their ancestral farm. In My AmericanaMissy Morrow celebrated her home of White Lake by depicting a classic car cruse on the road connecting Montague to Whitehall, with the illuminated sign of Dog-N-Suds and the spire of Ferry Memorial Reformed Church visible. Kathleen Putnam depicted model and fitness entrepreneur Audria Larsen wearing a hat of tropical fruit, probably an image captured at a session of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art SchoolRichard Brinn immortalized Lee S. Brown in an oil portrait. Brinn, a member of the Cass Corridor art movement in Detroit, has assisted the museum with an annual art auction, Fresh Art LiveBrown has served Muskegon by spearheading the preservation of the Hackley – Hume historical homes and the statues in Hackley Park.

Wildlife artist Catherine McClung exhibited a watercolor, the Front Room, and her husband contributed an office table in exotic woods, Sapele Scoop. Listed Not for Sale, the McClungs reconsidered when the Community Foundation for Muskegon County selected the table in Sapele wood for a purchase award, to be on display in the Frauenthal Center offices for good, forever. The relationship between SPX Corporation and Muskegon’s cultural life was evidenced by the corporation’s role as the 100th Year Centennial Partner and Patrick J. O’Leary‘s five purchase awards, photographs that all were listed originally as Not for Sale. The museum has encouraged volunteers and patrons to fund awards, and allows the sponsor to award them at the podium personally. Henry Matthews, Director of Galleries and Collections at Grand Valley State University, attended to award John A. Knudsen the purchase award for Sharp Curve, an oil on canvas. Visitors to the exhibition, which runs until August 8th, 2012, have the opportunity to vote upon the People’s Choice Award, selected by ballot. On the official 100th birthday of the Muskegon Museum of Art, June 21st, 2012, the award winning artists shall greet patrons among the regional exhibition and discuss their works, an annual tradition.

In 1998, Hoby Thrasher consulted Interior Designer Tylor Devereaux on the concept for a restaurant to be called the Sardine RoomDevereaux referred Thrasher to Michael Pfleghaar, whom Thrasher visited in an undeveloped industrial space in Grand RapidsThrasher commissioned the artist to paint a Picasso inspired mural on the barrel ceiling and construct several post-modern sculptures as chandeliers for the space. The muralist painted for more than three days and suffered a stiff neck while working on the ceiling. On Thursday night, as Pfleghaar accepted his Best of Show award in person, Thrasher worked on the redesign of the Sardine Room space, which still features Pfleghaar‘s work. Thrasher has cut windows into the north and west walls and plans a tap room environment. Thrasher had in his hands a copy of the 84th Regional Exhibition brochure, designed by Marguerite Curran-Gawron of the museum, to prove that his 14 year long bet on Pfleghaar’s career had prospered.

“Mr. Festival” Fred Bivins: “This is what makes life worth living — art”


There’s a giant gorilla staring at Fred Bivins from one side and a creepy creature with horns closing in from another.

Head for the flower garden, Fred! No, wait — the beach!

When you’re surrounded by 354 pieces of art, you can change your scenery with a quick dash.

Bivins, 62, is in his element amid the Festival of the Arts Regional Arts Exhibition, a part of Festival that has been in his care for 38 years.

But it’s never been quite like this — with stacks of old newspapers laying around.

The annual exhibition of cool art opened Friday in the former Grand Rapids Press headquarters on Michigan Street NW downtown. The building was purchased in January by Michigan State University for its College of Human Medicine and is mostly empty, although a smattering of employees still work there.

When Bivins started looking for venues, his usual spots — the old art museum, the new art museum — weren’t available.

Somebody mentioned the former Press building. He took a walk through, and when he got to the cavernous deserted mail room, formerly used to sort and stuff inserts in newspapers before delivery, “I said, ‘This is it!’” he recalls. “This is what I want.”

But it’s been a challenge. He had to install display walls down the middle, paint the place, rig lighting. He’s been toiling to get the space ready since the beginning of May.

Now it’s an 8,000-square-foot art gallery, in an unlikely spot.

“Isn’t it great?” Bivins beams. “It’s a cliché urban, trendy, hip industrial space that everybody loves for art these days.”

Bivins knows Festival draws people to art who might not seek it otherwise, and he loves that.

Last year, when the exhibition was at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, “the most common statement I heard was ‘This is the first time I’ve been in this building,’” he says.

What a shame, he notes.

“Once you get a roof over your head, and air and food, you’ve got sustenance,” he says. “But do you really have life? This is what makes life worth living — art.

“Oh, I guess there are other things,” he muses. “But I don’t go boating.”

He laughs. He cracks himself up a lot.

“The more people are exposed to art, the better they feel about life,” Bivins says. “Everybody who comes in here will find something they like. Everybody who comes in here will see something and get inspired. They might say, ‘I can do that.’ Everybody has it within them to be creative in some way.”

Bivins has it in a lot of ways.

He prints his own Christmas cards every year on a 1911 Chandler & Price letterpress.

He turns chunks of wood into exquisite high-end bowls that are famous. One is on the cover of a Godiva chocolate flier, filled with chocolates. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell buys the bowls to give foreign dignitaries as gifts when he travels.

When Bivins talks about the process of making one, he’s a poet:

“Almost nothing can compare to the feeling of producing something that looks the way you want it to look,” he says. “Taking a chunk of log, putting it on the lathe and turning it into a bowl. The sound, the feel, the smell. The shavings in the air. The water coming out of the green wood.” He grins. “You get soaked.”

His artistry continues in the kitchen. Once a week he hosts a passel of friends for “spaghetti night,” but more than spaghetti happens there.

He makes vats of his special “Fredducine alfredo” to serve the crowd. Friends help him bake up chewy, crispy loaves of ciabatta bread, pizzas and calzones that go in and out of a huge commercial pizza oven he bought at an auction.

If the guests are really lucky, Bivins treats them to gooey caramel and pecan-studded rolls, affectionately called “Fred’s sweet-ass buns.”

The tables are covered with white paper, and bowls of crayons and markers are set out. Draw, please.

The camaraderie is as much sustenance to Bivins as the food. He loves people. His wife, Gina, public programs manager at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, likes to tell how everybody he meets becomes his new best friend.

It’s hard to get rid of Bivins, if you wanted to. After high school he landed a job at General Motors, then stayed there for 31 years, first in production, then as an electrician. He was a big union guy.

He’s been part of the fabric of Festival for decades. He’s worked food booths, printed Festival flags and serves on the Festival board, spending three years as its president.

He’s been emcee for opening ceremonies since 1985, each year wearing a shirt he makes out of that year’s Festival flags.

In 2008 he won the Spirit of Festival Award. In 1986 he was co-chair of the whole shebang.

This year, he loves it that his beloved art exhibition is in a sort of quirky place. He asked for bundles of newspapers to place around the room.

“I want to bring a sense of The Press into this room,” he says. The Press printed the exhibition program on newsprint for him, in broadsheet style, like a newspaper.

“It’s a collector’s item,” Bivins says.

He should know. He has a lot of stuff. He collects bricks. He has two from virtually every building in town that’s been torn down. He’s not above climbing fences to get them.

Bivins has a love affair going with his community. He recently hosted print making workshops where guests printed brown paper lunch bags for Kids Food Basket, the nonprofit that supplies nutritious sack suppers to 4,800 kids a day who struggle with hunger. Later he hosted a fund raiser for the charity.

He spent the last eight months on a committee organizing the 150th celebration of his alma mater, Central High School, which drew 1,200 people earlier this month.

He’s been craving the moment when the art exhibition doors open and the place turns from a quiet haven of art to a bustling venue buzzing with chatter.

“Once somebody sees something that inspires them, then it’s the run for the roses,” he says. “If I can be part of something that sparks that creativity, then my life has great value.”

He knows something about the value of life.

He was rushed to the emergency room one night back in 1996 for what he figured was a gall stone, but doctors found a tumor. They thought he had pancreatic cancer. Put your affairs in order, he was told. After a complicated surgery, they discovered the tumor was benign.

Then, three years later, at age 49, Bivins had an enlarged heart and elevated pulmonary pressure. He was told he may need a heart transplant. He might live five years.

He underwent extensive testing for two years but doctors couldn’t find the cause. Ultimately they tried a new drug. It worked.

Bivins had a recent check-up with his cardiologist.

“He said the best thing he could have said,” Bivins says. “He said, ‘Looks normal to me.’”

Bivins likes to say how almost dying twice has a way of making you want to be a good person. It’s given him a kind of wisdom that can catch you by surprise. He’ll suddenly say something like this:

“You never know when the eureka moment comes, but it’s obvious later in life that you had it,” he muses. “But you might not know it till it’s gone. When was the last time your kids crawled in bed with you? You don’t know it’s the last time until it’s gone.”

After Festival, Bivins will dive into ArtPrize, curating the entries displayed at the Women’s City Club.

You just can’t escape art, can you, Fred?

Bivins grins.

“Why would you want to?”


Hipp, Hipp Hooray: Inspirational Ryan Hipp and his seven cats, dorkiness and cute books for kids


It makes sense that a guy who draws grilled cheese sandwich-munching monsters and giant purple octopus would have interesting names for his seven cats.

Because the cats are everywhere — strolling across the dining room table and launching themselves up onto the screen door — let’s deal with them first: Dexter Destro Twinkie; Princess Zelda Baby Angel; Grayson Chowder Sweetheart; Tubby Penguin Racer; Panther Cupcake Superhero; Bootsie Walnut Astronaut and Looloo.

“Shoo,” Ryan Hipp says, scooting Penguin off the table.

Is he not allowed up here?

“Oh, they’re allowed everywhere,” Hipp says cheerfully. “It’s their house. I just live here. They just keep me around to open the cans.”

Ryan Hipp is not a quiet, reclusive kind of writer/artist. He’s funny, affable, out there.

“I’m kind of a loudmouth,” he says. “People tend to know who I am pretty quickly.”

More people suddenly discovered Hipp in March when he won the Gwen Frostic Award, presented by the Michigan Reading Association for his work with literacy and children.

He doesn’t have a ton of books published. He’s not a Chris Van Allsburg sort of household name. But Hipp says the Frostic award doesn’t measure good ideas or stellar drawings.

“It’s about impacting the lives of kids,” he says. “That makes it mean even more.”

Kids know Hipp because he’s constantly in their world talking to them. He does oodles of classroom visits and workshops, sometimes talking to 500 kids at a time about reading and creativity.

“You can’t just be up in your tower producing books for a world you never see,” he says, sitting at his dining room table overlooking the Lowell woods. “Some authors and illustrators just want to make books. I feed off the excitement of the kids, the parents, the teachers.

“At first I was selfish,” he says. “I wanted to write and illustrate just because I wanted to do it. But if you’re going to survive, you have to start giving back.”

His books:

— “A Curious Glimpse of Michigan,” written by Kevin and Stephanie Kammeraad and illustrated by Hipp and Kevin Kammeraad. It’s filled with quirky facts about Michigan: A grinning cucumber tells how Michigan boasts the highest production of cukes used for pickling.

The friends followed that up with a musical version — an album of quirky songs about the Great Lakes State.

“How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck?” written by Danny Adlerman and illustrated by Hipp and several others.

I — Hipp also produced an animated promotional video for Kid’s Food Basket, which supplies nutritious sack suppers to 4,800 kids a day who struggle with hunger. Check it out at You’ve never seen a brown paper bag look so cute.

His friends tease him about his whimsical style.

“I’m a dude who likes drawing cupcakes and unicorns,” he says with a shrug.

He’s hoping for a year-end release of his next book, “Little Steps,” which he wrote and illustrated.

“It tackles the subject of life being hard, with obstacles along the way,” he says. “You have to take things one step at a time.” The main character is a caterpillar. Cue the cute.

Hipp scribbles some of his best ideas on coffee shop napkins. He thinks most people undervalue The Smurfs. He has epiphanies a lot. He believes in community, and says things like: “The best place to start your career is right outside your front door.”

Wondering about the bald head? When he started losing his hair at age 24, he shaved his head and has shaved it daily since.

“I said, ‘I’m not gonna go out like this, looking like somebody’s dad.’”

A vegetarian and animal rights activist, he was on the rescue team that tried to help a duck that walked around the Grand River with an arrow stuck through its breast.

The six paintings that hang in the cafe at the Grand Rapids Public Museum are his 2009 ArtPrize entry, based on the exhibits he loved there as a kid.

He grew up in Ada and on Grand Rapids’ West Side, the youngest of five kids who all loved books. His dad is a retired history teacher and his mom is a painter. He figures he absorbed some talent from each of them.

He wrote his first book — “The Penguin That Froze” — in first grade at Ada Elementary School. Young Authors Week thrilled him.

“I started referring to myself as “Ryan Hipp: author,” he says with a grin. “Now I go to schools and I’m the one talking to kids at Young Authors Week.

“The kids treat you like a rock star,” he says. “So it’s hard not to feel like one.”

In return, he treats them with respect.

“Kids are very discerning,” Hipp says. “They know when they’re being talked down to. So I talk to them on their level.” He smiles. “Because I’m on their level, too.”

Yeah. Let’s talk about that.

Hipp collects toys. He watches cartoons. He reads comic books.

“I’m a complete dork,” he freely admits.

He’s seen every episode of the “Twilight Zone” several times. Show him a picture of a random Star Wars character and he’ll tell you not just their name, but what system they’re from.

He gets the most obscure “Lord of the Rings” references. If you know what “BSG” means, you’re his new best friend. (It’s “Battlestar Gallactica.” I had to look it up.)

“My counselor will tell you I have Peter Pan Syndrome,” he says — a condition where guys have a hard time growing up.

But he has some advice about that.

“I just want kids to know that they really can do whatever they want to do,” he says. “They hear that all the time, I know. We always tell kids that, but our words don’t match our actions.

“I want kids to be inspired and believe in themselves,” he says. “I speak really vehemently about that.”

He’s quiet for a minute, thinking about the adults in his life who thought they gave him good advice.

He knew when he was a little kid that he wanted to be a writer. By the time he got to junior high, writing wasn’t cool for a kid to do, he says, so he switched to drawing. He drew lots of superheros.

By high school “I was a slacker,” he says. “I didn’t care about school. I wasn’t thinking about my future, my career.”

He pulled a lot of pranks, got in some trouble, had a big party when his dad was away and got kicked out of the house at age 18.

When he talked of maybe being an artist, his dad told him he better have a back-up plan.

So Hipp enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College and started studying financial planning.

“Even my friends knew that was wrong,” he says. “They said, ‘Dude — you keep your money in a plastic bag in your closet.’

“When kids get older, they’re asked to put their dreams on a shelf,” Hipp says. “I forgot I wanted to be an artist. Then one day I was sitting with my college counselor talking about my classes for the next year and he was talking about all these math classes. I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ He said, ‘You have to, for this major.’”

So Hipp walked across the street to the arts building “to find somebody who could help me start an art curriculum.”

He got a job at an advertising firm doing graphic design. Then he met author Kevin Kammeraad and started working with him on “A Curious Glimpse of Michigan.”

“It hit me,” Hipp recalls. “How did I forget how much I liked this? I realized I was meant to make stuff for kids.

“Most people aren’t doing what they really want to do, out of fear,” Hipp says. “I tell kids, ‘The ideas you have now are the best ideas you’ll ever have in your life. If you forget them, you’ll never get them back.’”

Grab a napkin and jot ‘em down.

Follow him on Facebook:



Website: // //