Black Swamp Arts Festival’s juried art show celebrates continued excellence in its 25th year


BG Independent News

For the Black Swamp Arts Festival’s juried art show the 25th year celebration is pretty much business as usual.

That means working to maintain its standing in the Sunshine Artist magazine’s listing of top art shows. Last year the festival was ranked 70th on the journal’s Top 100 Classic and Contemporary Show list. That’s about where the festival has ranked in the 15 years or so that, it has broken onto the list. Those rankings are based on artists’ average sales which are something shy of $3,000.

The 25th Black Swamp Arts Festival will be presented Friday, Sept. 8 through Sunday, Sept.10, with the art shows presents Saturday and Sunday. For more details, visit:

Brenda Baker, who chairs the festival’s visual arts committee, said she would like to think the milestone year has attracted a few more artists to apply. As it was the jurors Kathy Buszkiewicz and Brandon Briggs reviewed 222 applications to fill the 112 booth spaces on Main Street in downtown Bowling Green.

Six award winners from last year have committed to returning. That includes best of show winner Isaac Smith.

Baker said that 18, or 12.5 percent, of the artists are in their first Black Swamp Arts Festival. “That’s pretty high.”

Another 15 percent have been regulars for at least that past five years. The rest are in or out depending on the judgement of the jurors.

Buszkiewicz wrote in an email: “Having judged this show in the past, this time I have seen some good returning artists’ applications. There also seems to be some new applicants to the show this year which have helped to add to the diversity of types of artwork present.”

One gauge of heightened excitement around the festival, Baker said, is that more of those who were placed on the waiting list have reached out to make sure they’ll get a spot if one becomes available. However, accepted artists have confirmed they will attend earlier and at a higher rate, Baker said.

The juried art show will feature “a broader range of styles, from very somber realism to whimsical multimedia pieces,” Baker said. “There’s something that would appeal to anyone no matter what their tastes are. That seems even more the case this year.”

“It did seem that the entries for good glass work and painting were more limited than in the past and that of jewelry, ceramics, and photography and digital arts were abundant,” Buszkiewicz said.

This year the jurors had another element to consider when making their decisions. In the past, artists were asked, using the ZAPPlication software, to submit five slides, four of their work and one of their booth setup. This year the festival asked for a sixth slide that shows the work in progress.

This is part of the festival’s continuing effort to make sure those artists at the show created the work they are selling.

“We really want to give the business opportunity to artists and creator and support the art culture on the whole,” Baker said.

Buszkiewicz noted: “My aim in judging was to keep the quality of the work high so that the public is exposed to good one-of-a-kind and production work. That in itself helps to keep the appreciation of artists’ work, creativity and effort at an elevated level.”

Not that artists cannot sell reproductions, Baker said. High quality, limited edition reproductions are important in a market such as Bowling Green. The exhibitors who do best offer work at a variety of price points.

“We do not want to limit artists to selling only originals because then in the area like we live in most people are not apt to initially buy an original. Often a reproduction item is an entry point to buying an original artwork.”

Still the festival is always on guard against exhibitors who buy work or have it massed produced and then try to pass it off as their own – “buy-sell” artists is the art fair circuit term. That sixth slide the jurors reviewed is intended to help them ferret out those exhibitors. But the festival also has auditors who check out exhibitors on festival weekend.

The goal is to stage the best possible festival both for art buyers and exhibitors.