Phoenixville artist won't let vandals stop him

The arch in Phoenixville presumably damaged by vandals. (Photo courtesy of Gail L. Kassel Nettle)
Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg, Phoenixville artist, working on one of the past wooden effigies for the Firebird Festival. (Photo by John Strickler/The Mercury)

PHOENIXVILLE — Local artist Henrik Stubbe Teglbjaerg may be best known as the organizer of the annual Firebird Festival, but his art extends to many different places.

Among his works are a wooden sculpture honoring Native American culture at Marsh Creek State Park and an arch made of reclaimed driftwood that stood at the entrance to the Schuylkill River Trail behind Phoenixville’s borough hall.

It stood, that is, until Wednesday last week.

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“You don’t need many bad apples to make things go sour,” Teglbjaerg said.

A vandal allegedly brought down the arch which Teglbjaerg built for the Green Earth Festival a year ago. He said the arch was held together using steel bands fastened to pre-existing posts and it appeared that someone removed the bands on the right side.

“They probably took the bands off to have fun seeing it come crashing down,” Teglbjaerg said.

Gail L. Kassel Nattle saw the heap of wood over the weekend and snapped a photo.

“It’s a shame what happened,” she told 21st Century Media. “It was nice touch to the entrance to the trail.”

The arch was constructed of driftwood Teglbjaerg picked up from a secret spot in the Delaware River he knows of where large pieces come ashore.

“I like puzzles so it’s fun to kind of put these pieces together and see what comes out,” he said.

As such, he can’t “make the same exact thing because the pieces are gone.”

Intending to collect the pieces and potentially repair the arch, borough crews had already sent the wood to a composting plant, but since the wood had screws and other metal in it, it was sent to landfill.

Teglbjaerg said a man at the plant apologized, saying he liked the quality of the wood and hadn’t realized Teglbjaerg wanted to retrieve it.

It’s not the first time Teglbjaerg’s art has been tampered with. He said one sculpture he constructed features rebar dug deep into the ground, but vandals have already dug it up three times.

In the case of his arch, pictures posted to the Facebook group, “You Know You’re From Phoenixville When...” drew sadness from those who admired the piece.

“It’s discouraging when you see that,” Teglbjaerg said of the arch’s destruction. “But I see in the comments that people enjoy creativity.”

He praised Phoenixville as being a place where art is fostered.

“There’s a lot of creativity in this town,” according to Teglbjaerg.

Construction of this year’s wooden phoenix sculpture for the Firebird Festival is set to begin Sept. 16. However, Teglbjaerg’s regular crew is largely unavailable this year, leaving him with almost no one to take on the task of constructing the giant bird.

As such, Teglbjaerg is looking to tap into Phoenixville’s artistic and handy citizens to help him out.

In light of the destruction of the arch he constructed, Teglbjaerg said there is an extra need for the artistically-inclined to practice their talents on projects such as the Firebird Festival, which features many different types of artistic expression.

“We become aware of what we lose, so it becomes more important to create,” Teglbjaerg said.

Those interested in volunteering to help build this year’s phoenix statue can email Teglbjaerg at henrik11@verizon.net.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno