Black Swamp Arts Festival

Volunteers’ sweat equity makes Black Swamp Arts Festival possible

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Thousands of people enjoy all that the Black Swamp Arts Festival has to offer — the food and beverages, the music, the art, the youth activities. Hundreds more turn their love of the festival into action. The Black Swamp Arts Festival, Sept. 7-9 in downtown Bowling Green, relies on the sweat equity of those 900 volunteers. Just like neighbors getting together to raise a barn, these people help bring the festival to life. They help with setting up stages, serving beer, monitoring where the beer goes to keep the festival on the right side of the liquor regulations. They help kids create their own art. They deliver needed snacks to artists, and sell merchandise. “The whole festival relies on volunteers,” said Wynn Perry, who chairs the volunteer committee. The board that stages the festival is made up of volunteers. They meet throughout the year raising the $180,000 it costs to put on the festival. They book musical acts and enlist visual artists from near and far. They design posters and make sure people know about the event.  And come festival weekend, they may even pick up trash and plug in other holes as they occur. Why join this effort? Perry said “because it does make them part of the community. It’s a real strong community, and we have a strong community because people take that action.” That applies to the festival and Bowling Green as a whole. And, she added, “it’s fun.” Working as a beer garden monitor people get to greet their friends as well as meet new people.This year the monitors will have umbrella covered chairs to sit on. At this point, about a week before the festival begins, just over 50 percent of the volunteer spots are full. Those interested can sign up on the festival’s website. Areas of particular need are people to monitor the beer garden to make sure people don’t carry beer or wine out of the designated areas. Also people to check identifications for people wanting to buy alcoholic beverages and to sell the tickets needed to buy those beverages. There’s an special need for those wanting to work the late shifts. Also needed are people to work on the Dawn Patrol. That’s the crew that shows up before the break of dawn Saturday to transform Main Street and the Huntington parking lot into an outdoor art gallery. About half the volunteers work in the Kiwanis Youth Arts Village. “We’re very proud we offer those experience to kids and for them to learn the value of the art process,” Perry said. That takes a lot of willing hands, about 250 more than have signed up so far. While most of the festival volunteers are locals, including many university students, some travel from greater distances. Mira Gratrix, who lives in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario, has enjoyed attending the festival almost since its beginning when she was attending Bowling Green State University. Then about 10 years ago, she decided she wanted to do more, so she started volunteering. Helping out in any way she could. “I just love being a part of it,” Gratrix said. “It makes me feel closer to the festival. I want to help.” 

Friday night acts to light up Black Swamp festival stage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival has prided itself on its eclectic musical offerings. While the wide Americana music umbrella covers many of the performers, there have been plenty who reside outside that catch-all term. Think of the European, Caribbean, and African bands that have graced the festival’s stages. While the festival may have a global reach, the performing arts committee has also consistently tapped into the roots of American music. That’s certainly the case on Friday, Sept. 7. Ohio rocker Drew Joseph opens at 5 p.m. The acts that follow tap into the reverberations from Brooklyn, New Orleans, Austin, Nashville, and Michigan. Here’s what’s in store under the Friday night lights on the Main Stage Two Tons of Steel: Revving up the rockabilly sound Named for a 1956 Coupe de Ville that served as the band’s “van,” Two Tons of Steel hails from San Antonio, Texas. We can thank a local connection, though, for their appearance. Alex Hann, the long-time site and logistic chair for the festival, has been a fan since first hearing Two Tons at one of their regular gigs in the iconic Austin venues the Gruene Music Hall. He was impressed by the band’s energy which had the dance floor packed from the first note, and their combination of styles. Two Tons of Steel has its roots in rockabilly and Texas swing. Perfect for the festival. Conversations ensued, and Two Tons of Steel is now motoring into Ohio, virgin territory for the band. “It’s like being on a first date,” said leader Kevin Geil, in a recent telephone interview. He grew up in Austin listening to rockabilly. “You could play those three chords and play a song. … It was simple and smooth, just great music. That’s where we started and that’s the foundation of how our songs are still written and performed.” In 1992 in San Antonio, Geil started the band as a traditional three-piece rockabilly outfit with acoustic upright bass and guitars backing the vocals. Back then the music was a novelty, and Two Tons of Steel took off. Billboard magazine wrote about them. The band appeared on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. A few of their songs were heard on “B” movie soundtracks. As Geil started featuring songs he’d written, he decided to expand by adding a drummer. Later came along steel guitar, though that musician won’t be making the Midwest swing with the band. Geil’s songs mostly get their start on his phone. He records licks and pieces of lyrics. “The majority of these songs were written on my phone.” Geil learned his songwriting lessons well from pioneers of the genre. “I always start with the hook. … It’s all about the hook, the melody.” But the song also has to say something. Now, that’s a mature look at love and heartbreak. In the early days, it was about cars and drinking. Those songs as well as tributes to some of the band’s musical heroes, have been captured on a dozen recordings with another due out about the time of the festival. Even in the age of streaming, people still like “to have something to walk away with.” Two Tons of Steel works with a producer who should be familiar to festivalgoers. Lloyd Maines has performed several times both at the festival and Grounds for Thought with singer-songwriter Terri Hendrix, also a friend of Two Tons. Geil said Maines is credited with helping to shape the Texas sound. “It’s the heartbeat of any band to go out and record. It keeps you motivated…

Imaginations run wild in Black Swamp fest’s youth art village

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Black Swamp Arts Festival’s Youth Arts Committee has one job – keep more than 1,000 children entertained over the two days of the festival. For Katie Beigel, committee co-chair in her second year, that means bringing her diverse interests and training to bear – art, art education, and event planning. “We’re planning for about 1,500. … I’d rather have a little too much than not enough,” she said. Working with Matt and Heidi Reger, she is organizing activities at the Kiwanis Youth Village with a mix of old favorites and new twists. Last year a survey conducted of the festival found that youth arts was highly popular, rated 3.4 out of a possible 4 – the only thing ranked higher was the festival as a whole with a 3.7. The survey found visitors spend on average one to two hours in the village. And it’s clear from the survey that the youth activities make it more likely that families will attend the festival. Beigel said she heard plenty of praise because the activities appealed to all ages and abilities. Most kids do more than one activity, the survey found. Given that, it’s not surprising that people wanted bags to carry home all those treasures. So Beigel put out a call for t-shirts, and with stacks of them on hand, kids will be able to make bags from them. And they’ll be able to stencil them with pictures made up of words at the poetry table. The sleeves of the shorts will be cut off and sent over the area where children will make decorations for their hats. In the past, the festival purchased flowers for decorations. But last year they ran out, and people were disappointed, Beigel said. This year they decided to let the kids apply their own fashion sense and make decorations. “It’s important to be teaching kids that art can come from anywhere you don’t need to go and buy a bunch of stuff to be creative,” Beigel said. That fits with an emphasis on reuse, recycling and repurposing. “We’re showing that arts can have a function more than just something you put on the fridge,” Beigel said. “There’s so many things that can be used to make new projects. The festival is a cool place to do that. There’s no lesson plans, no state standards to meet, their only goal is to have so much fun and be creative.” Unleashing that creativity is the focus of the task tent where young festival goers are offered an assortment of random materials and allowed to let their imaginations go wild. In its first year in 2017 that meant swords, boats, even balls of tape emerged. Even parents got in the spirit, Beigel said. Returning this year will be the construction area. Heidi Reger, who teaches architecture at BGSU, is the driving force behind the tent where children can use tools with the guidance of construction management and architecture students to build projects. Also returning after a few years is easel painting, and, of course, the favorite tie-dying. “When you’re teaching art, you’re teaching the motor skills, but also how to think about it,” Beigel said. “Making sure they have adequate time to really think about it, that’s part of it. That’s what they’re getting to do this year.”            

Shinyribs ready to take Black Swamp fest audience on a fantastic musical voyage

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Kevin Russell has a fertile imagination. Just ask him how the name Shinyribs originated. Sometimes it involves giving a homeless woman some ribs. Or maybe as he also says it was just a meaningless moniker given to him by a bunch of derelicts he used to hang out with in northern Louisiana. Or maybe it’s from his toddler running around declaring “It’s shiny time!” “It was his mantra,” Russell said. And about that time Russell was thinking a lot about the creation story involving Adam’s rib and thinking that the rib lives its life in darkness, and yet it’s close to the heart. Then Russell laughs. He’s laughter punctuated each of these creation stories. He’s a guy who likes to have a good time, and likes to encourage others to have a good time. That really is what Shinyribs stands for. The Austin-based octet will be the closer for Saturday night on the Main Stage of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Russell said he’s looking forward to the gig. “As soon as I saw the name, I said ‘I want to play the Black Swamp.’” Russell’s music is rooted in joy. Growing up in Beaumont, he said: “We heard of tons of 45s, everything, The Sylvers, Billy Preston, Glen Campbell, Ray Stevens, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Monkees, Jerry Reed, Waylon. That’s how we listened to music. We listened to everything. We didn’t care what kind of music it was. It was wide open. Me and my sisters would dance to that music. Great time.” That no-styles barred approach continues to be the Shinyribs mission statement. From the time Russell was a child, he’d tried to get his friends to form a band, but it wasn’t until he was 14 when his father asked if he wanted to learn to play the guitar that his career as a musician lifted off. At first he woodshedded behind closed doors. Then he played for his school friends and at talent shows. “I got the bug and kind of kept doing it.” That involved playing, but especially songwriting. Russell said his songs, “a flood of songs,” are his diary, his autobiography. Some have found their way into the repertoire of the bands he played with including The Gourds, which for 20 years was a staple of the bustling Austin, Texas music scene. Others he’s played solo, and now with Shinyribs. Some will never be heard. “I’ll never remember them all.” That fecundity is in part what led to the breakup of The Gourds. The band had four songwriters vying for a place on the set list. Russell started playing as a single to sing some of this surfeit of material and make a few extra dollars. He performed as Shinyribs. It was just him and his guitar and ukulele. Soon The Gourds went into hiatus. Russell enlisted keyboard wizard Winfield Cheeks, and then bassist Jeff Brown made it a trio. Gourds drummer Keith Langford wasn’t sure what direction he wanted to go after the band stopped performing. Eventually he joined Russell. Shinyribs got booked to do a wedding, and the host had a list of requests, and wanted horns. So Russell brought on the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns – Mark Wilson, saxophone and flute, and Daniel “Tiger” Anaya, trumpet. They played a couple more gigs together. “I can’t not have horns now. To me it’s a dream come true to play with horn players. It was a perfect match of personalities and aesthetic sensibilities.” Then he landed a chance to play a Valentine’s Day show at the…

From Rolling Stones to Black Swamp fest, saxophonist Karl Denson is always ready to start a party

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Some nights saxophonist Karl Denson will play for 87,000 people. Another night he might play for 87. Some nights his meaty, soulful sound is blowing in the spotlight with the Rolling Stones. Other nights he’s “getting away with murder” playing jazz tunes in a rock club. On Saturday Sept. 8, at 8 p.m. Denson will present his amalgamation of funk and pop with a heart of jazz on the Main Stage of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. “It’s interesting to see how I’m perceived,” he said. Playing 150 shows a year, “you change the sound from time to time.” “Sometimes it’s more funk and sometimes gets a little jazzier,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s a dance band. At the end of the day, whatever angle I’m taking, I really want people to be dancing and having fun.” This is in the spirit of those jazz players who came before him. “It was a party when Louis Armstrong played,” or for that matter, he added, when hip hop DJs started spinning turntables and scratching records. That’s the spirit he wants to bring to Bowling Green. Denson’s been playing for good times since he was a teen. Growing up in southern California, he started on saxophone in seventh grade. It was just something to do, he said. By high school he was working in funk bands and Mexican wedding bands. Denson went to Fullerton College with the intentions of being a veterinarian. In high school he’d worked in an animal clinic, including assisting in the operating room. But he found himself taking more music classes each semester, so he switched his major. He moved on to Cal State Long Beach. At that time he aspired to be an avant garde jazz saxophonist inspired by the likes of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cecil Taylor, and Anthony Braxton. This was a golden age of jazz with all its variety of styles, including early fusion, before it got smooth, he said. “I feel fortunate to have live through that,” he said. “Now I’m definitely using that as a reference. … I’m a jazz guy at heart. My stuff is going to lean back into that improvised kind of music. … It hangs in that sixties, seventies vein.” And younger players, notably fellow saxophonist Kamasi Washington, are also inspired by the styles of that time. Denson had a record deal with a German label playing straight-ahead jazz. But in the early 1990s, he went on the road with rock guitarist Lenny Kravitz. As much as he loved working with Kravitz and doing jazz on the side, Denson wanted to create something of his own. The emergence of acid jazz opened up that avenue for him. “I recognized all those samples,” he said. “This is what I’m supposed to be doing.” The saxophonist hooked up with DJ Greyboy and cut some tracks that were hits on the dance circuit. That led to the formation of the Greyboy All Stars, an ensemble that lasted longer than its namesake’s participation in the group. “That was the most fun thing ever,” Denson said of the All Stars. Here he was bringing the jazz vibe that first inspired him as a teenager into dance clubs. When the All Stars had run its course, and members dispersed into other projects, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe was born, made of the same amalgamation of soulful, dance-ready grooves with the leader’s saxophone, flute and vocals leading the way. His musical heroes, he said, are composers – Herbie Hancock, Horace Silver and Prince – who write…

Hundreds of volunteers share in Black Swamp Arts Festival’s I Love BG Award

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A volunteer enterprise that knows how to show the community a good time won the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce’s I Love BG Award. The Black Swamp Arts Festival received the award at the Chamber’s Mid-Year Meeting and Awards Program. Given the number of volunteers, as many as 1,000, with some seated in the luncheon audience, festival vice chair Jamie Sands dubbed the honor the “We Love BG Award.” The Black Swamp Arts Festival will be staged Sept. 7-9 in downtown Bowling Green and feature visual arts, music, and more than a dozen youth art activities. In his introduction, Clint Corpe, of the Morning Show on WBGU-FM, recalled talking to Floyd Craft, one of the festival’s founders, about the event’s soggy start. Craft recalled that first year organizers pulling down tents with rain coming at them from all directions and knowing they had lost thousands of dollars that they’d put into the festival. They asked: What next? The answer was: “Let’s do it again.” And they did. Again and again and again. Last year’s the festival marked its 25th year. In the spirit of the founders, the festival committee wondered after 25 years what was next, said Bill Donnelly, who chairs the festival committee. “What’s our vision for the next 25 years?” The festival’s mission is to foster a relationship between members of the community and the arts, he said. Donnelly said he’s researched other events and he could not find another festival of this magnitude that is totally staged and funded by community volunteers. Among those volunteers is Earlene Kilpatrick, the executive director of the chamber. She’s served on the festival’s artist hospitality committee. Donnelly said if he asked her to show up at 4:30 a.m. on the Saturday morning of the festival, she was there. This was the last major chamber event Kilpatrick will preside over. She is retiring on Oct. 1 after 10 years in the job. “The chamber has grown,” she said, “and I’ve grown as part of the chamber.” Heritage Corners, which won the Customer Service Award in 2017, was honored with the Small Business of the Year Award. Monica Manley, daughter of founders Mark and Debra Manley, said she applied for the award this year because her parents are retiring, and this would be the last year they could celebrate the honor as a family. On receiving the award, Monica Manley said, “it’s easy to live in Bowling Green because of everyone in this room.” Her brother Mat Manley said he was surprised to be honored again. He thought he’d come to present the Customer Service Award. He did do that. The honor went to Wood Haven Health Care, another business that serves the elderly. Jeff Orlowski, the director, said that all employees go through empathy training, and they think of themselves not simply as workers, but as super heroes who daily can make a difference in people’s lives. The chamber also awarded its scholarship winners: Jared Bechstein, high school,  and  Andrew Slembarski, college. (The guest speaker was Robyn Fralick, new women’s basketball coach at Bowling Green State University. A story on her talk will be forthcoming.)  

Rising blues star Samantha Fish ready to connect with Black Swamp Arts Festival audiences

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When the Main Stage acts for the 2018 Black Swamp Arts Festival were first posted, a number of music fans lit up social media at the sight of Samantha Fish’s name as the festival closer. Two months from now, on Sunday afternoon, rising blues star Fish will take the Main Stage to round out the weekend’s performances. The 26th Black Swamp Arts Festival runs from Sept. 7 through 9 in downtown Bowling Green. Since the Kansas City, Missouri -based artist emerged on the blues scene about 10 years ago, she’s caught the eye and ear of blues lovers. Last year she released her fifth solo album on Ruf Records. Those records are important, she said in a recent telephone interview, even in today’s changing music business landscape. “An album is a marker of growth. It’s a legacy …. People need something to take home to listen to.” But a recording can only capture so much. The real connection between listener and performer comes in person. “There’s something about seeing someone live,” Fish said. “You see the passion. These guys sweating it out, really living in the moment, and delivering a song that connects to your life. You don’t get that from listening to a record.” Hearing live shows, whether at a festival in Arkansas where she first heard the rawer version of Delta blues or a Kansas City club, where she heard the legends of the music, is what hooked Fish on the music. That was when she was in her late teens. “I was looking for something real, and I found it there.” Fish said she’d also had her eye on doing something in the entertainment business since she was a child. To those around her dancing and theater were “pipe dreams.” She started playing drums at 13, and then picked up guitar at 15. Later she started going to jam sessions to hone her craft. “I didn’t know how to go from wanting to do something to making it happen,” Fish said. “In those clubs, I saw that music was happening all over, not only Los Angeles. … It just gave me some hope I could write my songs and sing and play guitar and make a decent living out of it.” She got a band together, and started making calls. It was like being “a telemarketer,” she said. The band landed some gigs, and that earned her some fans. It got her recognized as the Best New Artist at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis. A self-produced live album got her a record deal with Ruf Records. “I got lucky,” Fish said. “We’ve connected with people and built an amazing fan base in such a short period of time. Fifteen-year-old Samantha is really shocked that this kind of stuff can happen.” But a lot of hard work goes into capitalizing on that luck.  “It’s been a long road.” That road has passed through venues around the world. The live show is what drives her popularity. “That’s what we have the most practice doing since all those little gigs in Kansas City. “The combination of being a strong woman playing guitar, singing and writing and putting together a really dynamic band with a lot of personality – that’s what connects with people.” More and more her personality infuses her songs. “I used to color within the lines. Now I’ve started scribbling all over the coloring book.” She’s searching for her own voice within the blues. “There’s such a strong tradition. People’s idea of blues music is rooted in these traditional styles. My…

Black Swamp Arts Festival’s juried art show takes shape

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Marissa Saneholtz was a kid she’d squirrel away her allowance in anticipation of the Black Swamp Arts Festival. She could always find a ring or print that she wanted to buy, she said. “I’ve been interested in art forever. This year Saneholtz, who teaches metalsmithing at the Bowling Green State University School of Art, is one of the jurors who selected the artists and artisans who will exhibit in the juried show. The Black Swamp Arts Festival will be Sept. 7, 8, and 9 in downtown Bowling Green, starting with music, food vendors, and beer garden on Friday, Sept. 7, and continuing with art, music, youth activities, food vendors, and beer garden, Saturday Sept. 8 and Sunday, Sept. 9. “It was really amazing to be asked to jury it,” Saneholtz said. She joined Dan Chudzinski, curator for the Mazza Museum, and painter Jessica Summers on the panel. Saneholtz doesn’t think people will have difficulty finding something that catches their fancy. “Overall there’s such a wide variety of artists that apply.” Knowing the community helped inform her work as a juror. “I know what price points people will buy at, from the kid saving their allowance to the professional.” She has her taste, she said, but must look beyond that. “I’m also trying to think: Would my family members want to buy this?” High quality is first and foremost for the jurors, she said. “I mean there’s always the people who just blow your socks off.” Artists apply through the online service Zapplication. They must submit slides of their work, their display, and their process. The jurors then review those slides individually before coming together as a panel to make final decisions. Just over 200 artists and artisans applied this year. Stacy and Josh Poca are chairing the festival’s visual arts committee this year. They said a few artists got the highest marks in the first round, and immediately made it into the show. Also the winners from last year’s show automatically get a spot, and all but one are coming back. There were also a few whom jurors agreed didn’t make the cut before the jurying session, Stacy Poca said. But most fell somewhere in between. The jurors look for the best work as well as a balance of media. Jewelry always accounts for the greatest number of applications. That’s why about 10 years ago, the festival decided to increase the jurying panel to three, so they always have a metalsmith looking at the work. That’s Saneholtz, who is recognized as an up-and-coming jeweler. She said that the jewelers worked in a range of materials, sometimes recycling found items and others using silver and gold. The juried show will feature 108 artists in booths arranged in blocks of four running down the middle of Main Street. While this is the Pocas’ first year chairing the visual arts committee, they have been festival volunteers before. A number of years ago when they’d first moved to Bowling Green, they were introduced to festival by Chris and Michelle Miller, whom they met at a party. Josh Poca, at time a structural ironworker, helped with stage set up, and Stacy Poca, who worked at BGSU in development, helped with fundraising. Then they moved first to Tennessee and then Indiana. Eight years later they returned, now parents of a daughter and a son, and they wanted to reconnect with the festival. “Bowling Green for us is the Black Swamp Arts Festival,” she said. “So many friends we have are because of the festival.” While they intended to volunteer,…

Black Swamp Festival ready to party with a cornucopia of musical acts

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For a touring musician like JT Nero festivals offer a benefit beyond a paying gig. Nero and his band, Birds of Chicago ,will be returning to the Black Swamp Arts Festival this year, and he remembers his 2017 visit fondly. “We had a hell of a time, an amazing time. They really curate interesting and eclectic slate of bands,” Nero, who grew up in Toledo, said. “It’s fun not just to come and play but to hang out and hear the other music. From what I’ve been able to tell, they’ve always done that.” Touring musicians often miss out on hearing what other performers are up to. At a festival like Black Swamp “we plug in and see where our peers are at and see as much music as we can.” The Black Swamp Arts Festival aims to please, musicians and listeners alike, so a mix of performers in a cornucopia of styles will again grace the Main Stage this year, Friday, Sept. 7 through Sunday, Sept. 9. Schedules for the festival’s other two stages will be forthcoming later this summer with some Main Stage acts playing second shows at those venues. Headliners include Karl Denson, the saxophonist from the Rolling Stones’ touring band, and a New York funk band with a beat that matches its eye-catching name, Pimps of Joytime. The focus, said Cole Christensen, who co-chairs the festival’s performing arts committee, is fun. Last year with high expectations as the festival celebrated its 25th year, the committee rolled out some heavy-hitters, including the Blind Boys of Alabama. This year, Christensen and co-chair Tim Concannon, wondered: “How could we have a more fun party atmosphere? How could we have a combination of really enjoyable acts that would appeal to a lot of people and would have a really good fan base?” Drawing on some recommendations from friends near and far, Christensen thinks they’ve achieved that goal. Friday’s headliners feature bluegrass performer Billy Strings. “He’ll bring it fast, hot and furious,” Christensen said of the guitar picker from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Setting the stage for him will be the San Antonio, Texas-based rockabilly band Two Tons of Steel. Alex Hann, who chairs the festival’s site and logistics committee, recommended booking the band. Closing Friday will be Pimps of Joytime. The band describes its sound as being at the “intersection of Brooklyn’s indie music scene, New Orleans funk and San Francisco soul.” “Party music,” is Christensen’s assessment. Saturday’s show brings back Birds of Chicago, a crowd favorite. Fronted by Nero and his wife Allison Russell, the band performs thoughtful, evocative original songs with ingratiating harmonies. Another band founded by Birds’ guitarist Dan Abu-Absi, Radio Free Honduras, features the songs and vocals of Honduran musician Charlie Baran. They will perform earlier on Saturday. Cordovas, named as a band to watch by “Rolling Stone,” will also be o the Saturday bill. The country-rockers from Nashville feature four-voice harmonies that will have some thinking of Crosby Stills, Nash & Young. Christensen expects Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe to provide a blast of high energy jazz funk. “They have quite a following on the jam scene,” he said. Closing out the night be Shinyribs, another Austin band. The band was suggested by a fan of the festival, Christensen said. Kevin Russell, formerly of The Gourds, is “a dynamic frontman who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Shinyribs, which includes the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns, describes its show as: “hip shaking, belly laughing, soul-singing, song-slinging, down-home house party.” Fitting the festival’s open minded proclivities “all styles of American music are likely to be touched…

Eddie Shaw, favorite of BG blues fans, dies at 80

Bluesman Eddie Shaw, who made frequent appearances in Bowling Green, died Monday (Jan. 29, 2018). His passing was confirmed by his booking agent Jay Reil. Shaw, vocalist, saxophonist, and band leader, played many shows over the past several decades in Bowling Green. Those included shows at Howard’s Cub H, and later Grounds for Thought, and the Black Swamp Arts Festival. Grounds proprietor Kelly Wicks, who booked him in his shop and at the festival, said Shaw was like Bowling Green’s resident bluesman. The feeling was mutual. Before a 2013 at Grounds, Shaw said Bowling Green was like a home away from home for him. He had a lot of friends in the area, he said. Shaw, 80, started playing the blues as a teenager in Mississippi. In 1972 he joined blues legend Howlin’ Wolf’s band, the Wolf Pack, and when the leader died in 1976, Shaw took the helm and continued to lead the group until his death. Shaw most recently performed in Bowling Green as the closing act of the 2014 Black Swamp Arts Festival.

Volunteers from far & near make Black Swamp Arts Festival possible

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Driving seven hours to attend the Black Swamp Arts festival wasn’t enough for Mira Gratrix. Gratrix has been making the trek from her home in the Georgian Bay area of Ontario almost every year since 1995, and nine years ago she decided enjoying the festival wasn’t enough. “I just love being a part of it,” Gratrix said. “It makes me feel closer to the festival. I want to help.” So this weekend Gratrix was back in Bowling Green selling tickets, checking in other volunteers as they showed up for their shifts, and conducting a survey of festival goers. In the past, she’s worked back stage, served as a gate monitor, served beer, and did artist hospitality. She did miss one year when she broke her leg, but she was back the next helping out in a wheel chair. Having participated in other festivals she knows how difficult it is to get volunteers. “It’s always a core group.” That’s true as well in Bowling Green, said Todd Ahrens, who chairs the committee of volunteers that meets year-round to stage the event. The festival needs about 1,000 people to keep the event running smoothly over the weekend. “Our challenge always remains that we’re an all-volunteer-run organization. We rely heavily on volunteers. The community always rises to the occasion and comes through. This year was no exception.” Those volunteers include familiar faces. Geoff Howes has performed several years with the Grande Royale Ukulelists of the Black Swamp. This year he was doing his part collecting trash, certainly one of the least glamorous jobs. Also helping with trash and recycling were the members of the Dance Marathon Steering Committee. They were part of large contingent of BGSU students who helped out. They included student athletes, members of ECCO (Educators in Context & Community) and other groups. Ryan O’Neil, an architecture student from Columbus, was busy Saturday helping kids tie-dye t-shirts, one of the festival’s signature activities. “I like helping the local community,” he said. “I do it as much as I can.” He said he enjoyed the music and the “safe environment of the festival.” Compared to the Ohio State Fair, he said “this is the right size.” Gratrix first came to Bowling Green in 1994 to do a year of graduate studies at Bowling Green State University. She lived on Clough Street with her two daughters who attended Crim Elementary. The festival was in its second year. She attended and fell in love with it. She met her friend Tamara O’Brien at that time and stays with her when she visits Bowling Green. Gratrix’s passion for the festival has only grown over the years. She wonders how the festival is able to attract the top performers it does. “The festival has really opened my ears up to music” she said. “I’d never heard of zydeco.” Every year she returns home to the Georgian Bay with a new collection of recordings by festival performers. But it’s more than the stars that make the event shine for her. The festival really brings out what makes the town great. “I’ve never met a disgruntled person.” It attracts a far more diverse group of people than other festivals, she said. Those dancing to the music range from 8-year-olds to 80-year-olds. When she returns north to her job as a forensic social worker, she spreads the word about the Black Swamp. “I tell friends and family, you have to experience this.”

All the pieces come together for a rousing celebration of Black Swamp Art Festival’s 25th year

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Take some music, art, and food, add lots of sunshine and clear skies, and 1,000 volunteers to cook it all up, and what you get is the 25th Black Swamp Arts Festival. This festival couldn’t have been more a contrast to the first festival in 1993, which was plagued by rain and ended in debt. This year the weather was close to perfect with day time temps in the high 60s dipping into the low 50s as the night wore on. “We think we had our best year ever,” said Todd Ahrens, who chairs the festival committee. That means unlike that first year the future of the event is secure. The festival surveyed patrons over the weekend, he said, to get their perspective about the event, and ideas for the future. Amy Craft Ahrens, who chairs the concessions committee, said that all those “with a financial stake” in the festival. That included downtown business who had strong sales and the food concessions. “Supporting the concessions supports the festival,” she said. The festival’s financial base is a three-legged stool – a third from beverage sales, a third from artist booths fees and concession fees, and a third from fundraising. It costs about $180,000 to stage the annual event. Linda Brown, a member of the visual arts committee, said that artists reported that they had a successful weekend, ranging from good to their best weekend of the year. Among those was Emily Wilson, who said the show has been consistently her best in the four years she’s been in the show. Painter Jen Callahan said her sales were “fantastic.” “We did phenomenal,” she said, “better than Ann Arbor,” a reference to that city’s iconic street art fair. This was her first show in Ohio, and she attributed her warm reception to being a fresh artist at the festival. “The people are very art savvy,” the Florida artist said. “I got a lot of questions on my art. That makes it more enjoyable to me.” Charles Gabriel, a photographer from Toledo, said he’d shown his work in the Wood County Invitational Show, the past few years and decided to apply for the juried show. He got in and he was “exceptionally” pleased with having made the switch. Juliann Fausel, of Annadele Alpaca, said she was glad to be in the show not just for the sales but for the quality of the festival itself, calling it “the best run.” If she returns, though, Fausel said she’ll make sure she brings more orange merchandise. M ultimedia artist H.C. Warner, a multimedia artist, whose booth featured fantastic large sculptures that are at once childlike and a bit disturbing. His sales were lackluster. He said he realized his work was “an acquired taste.” He’s headed next to Riot Fest in Chicago. He tends to do really well at music festivals. He liked the BG scene, though, calling it “Mayberry on steroids.” He was philosophical about sales. “My other intention is to inspire.” If he’s done that, he said, then the show’s a success. Brenda Baker, who chairs the visual arts committee, said that she feels this year “was one of the strongest shows we had.” The way the new artists presented their work was gratifying. Sometimes that’s hard to predict from the slides used to decide who will be in the show, she said. Many artists told Brown that they were honored to be included in such a high quality show. “The show is fantastic,” said Loren Fedorowicz, who runs Walnut Street Gallery in Wooster. She visits art fairs “to…

Youth arts area at festival stirs young imaginations

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The juried artists selling their crafts at the Black Swamp Arts Festival Saturday likely had no idea what they were missing by not incorporating plastic spoons, duct tape and pipe cleaners into their artwork. “I’m making a super hero board game,” said Max Cragin, 11, of Bowling Green. His game, called “Wonder Woman Island,” looked a bit like the colorful winding path of Candy Land – but with more treacherous pitfalls along the way. Some of the perils along the pathway included “Get blown up and die,” or “Get clawed” at the black panther cave, or “Get zapped” by lightening. The Kiwanis Youth Arts Village at the Black Swamp Arts Festival again let the imaginations of children run wild. Using empty toilet paper rolls, buttons and beads, they became artists in residence. While the other end of the Black Swamp Arts Festival featured accomplished artists, the northern most block of the festival let unjuried artists do their own things. To be honest, some weren’t exactly sure what they were creating. “I’m making, hmmmm, I don’t know. Something cool, I probably will like,” said Lily Wilson, 8, from Oak Harbor. She and her sisters, Zoe, 6, were taking pieces of cardboard and duct tape and constructing buildings. Others were more certain in their handiwork. “I’m making a toy sword and a back scratcher,” McKenna Seman, Bowling Green, said as she proudly displayed her work. She huddled over a table of treasures with Hope Seman, Madison Cowan and Bella Karlovec as they turned popsicle sticks, beads and foam shapes into all types of creations that older minds might have difficulty envisioning. Some knew this was just the beginning of their artistic careers. Like Berkeley Clay, 5, who was putting the finishing touches on her hand drawn purple diamond, complete with “little pointy things.” “I’m going to bring it home to give it to my friend,” said Berkeley, from Ottoville. “I’m going to be an artist when I grow up,” she said. “Artists get to draw new things.” Further down the block, kids in plastic hardhats were combining art and construction. With the help of construction management students from Bowling Green State University, the kids were turning blocks of wood into cars, houses, airplanes and people. “We’re trying to make the best creations we can,” said Andrew Morris, a BGSU student who was helping a little boy make a car. Amidst the hammering and drilling, Morris was searching for the necessary four wheels. “They are a hot commodity, but we have them.” The always popular work stations for tie-dye shirts and floppy paper hats were also offered. And newer stations were added for making mobiles and robots. By mid-afternoon, Allison Mills, of Bowling Green, had a couple tired out young artists in her stroller. “Every year we come to the kids place,” she said. “You have to do the hats for sure.” “Everyone just loves it,” said Heidi Reger, who helped organize the annual youth arts area with her husband, Matt. The feeling is mutual for the kids, the parents and the nearly 400 volunteers. “A friend of mine is volunteering and he said he is having as much fun as the kids,” Reger said. The youth arts area will be open again Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the North Main Street blocks near the Wood County District Public Library.

Woodworker Neil Kemarly wins Best of Show at BSAF

A woodworker from Pioneer took top honors in the Juried Art Show at the Black Swamp Arts Festival Saturday. Neil Kemarly won Best of Show for his furnishings that use the wood’s natural characteristics as a key design element. Judge Brandon Briggs praised his work as an example of the power of simplicity in design. First place 2D went to Kentucky printmaker Chris Plummer. Plummer said some of his most recent work was inspired by his work teaching children. First place 3D went to ceramics artist Rachel Stevens, from North Carolina. Judge Kathy Buszkiewicz said she was impressed with Stevens’ striking use of color. Also honored were: Samuel Hitchman, ceramics, second place. Paula Gill, fiber, third place. Derrick Riley, printmaking, Rick Braveheart, photography, and Dave Thompson, mixed media, all honorable mention. (A full story will be published tomorrow.)

BGHS team wins Chalk Walk

A team of hometown artists came away with top honors in the Black Swamp Arts Festival’s Chalk Walk. Bowling Green 2 won honors for their design “Peace Car.” Members of the team were Natalie Avery. Ian Brackenbury, Jordan Ely, Rona Mejiritski, and Anne Weaver. Nikki Myers was the team’s advisor. The second place honors went to Holgate for their earth centered work. Third place went to Wayne Trace for a piece, “Science and Art.” Eleven teams participated in this year’s event.