Art show offers variety & quality
Written by DAVID DUPONT Festival Program Editor   
Saturday, 03 September 2011 07:42
File Photo: A scene from the 2010 Black Swamp Arts Festival (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
While the number of artists in the art shows at the Black Swamp Arts Festival is holding steady, that doesn’t mean there isn’t change.
Linda Brown, who chairs the festival’s art show, said the 108 artists displaying in the juried show that stretches the length of Main Street will offer a number of new faces. “Even some of the returning artists are doing different things,” she said. “Even returning artists mix it up, try new styles.”
A different panel of jurors every year helps keep the show fresh. Each juror has a different aesthetic sense. This year’s jurors are Dennis Wojtkiewicz and Masako Onodera, both from Bowling Green State University’s School of Art, and Walter Zurko, from Wooster College.
The panel always includes a balance of expertise in disciplines: Onodera is a metalworker and jeweler, Wojtkiewicz, a painter, and Zurko, a sculptor.
The number of applicants held steady. The festival is in its second year of using the online application system ZAPP.
“ZAPP has gotten us new artists,” Brown said.
Brenda Baker is on his first year on the committee. She was impressed with “how careful the jurors are.”
They bring their expertise to determine the quality of the craftsmanship based on the slides submitted, and discuss the techniques used to create the work. They are also “looking for creativity,” she explained.
This was the first time Wojtkiewicz had juried an art fair, though he’s done a number of gallery shows and school exhibits.
Coming from an academic setting, he found the contrast between what is created and discussed in that setting with what artists who take their work to the streets do. In both contexts, “the talent rises to the top.”
Wojtkiewicz likened looking at the slides submitted for the Black Swamp show to visiting a museum. “You walk through and something stops you. Bang. That’s pretty cool.”
He said within the art fair world there’s a hierarchy of shows that have “stuff that’s pretty run of the mill ... then you go and you’re pretty surprised with what you see,” he said. In Bowling Green “we’re getting a pretty high caliber of things.”
Onodera said she has enjoyed the festival since she first arrived at BGSU about three years ago. “I didn’t expect to see this in a small town like this when I moved here.”
Onodera said she noticed a trend among artists to create mixed media art, often using recycled materials.
Zurko early in his career did a few art fairs and has juried a few as well. The biggest difference, he said, between what he sees in the academic setting and in art fairs “is the majority of work is geared toward sales, geared toward accessibility to a bigger group.”
What stands out is work with “a good sense of design and good craftsmanship,” Zurko said. “The people who are best are the ones who keep their ideas going and generate new things and keep people interested in their work and buying.”
When talking with students, Wojtkiewicz said, some may dismiss the commercial aspect. “But the other side is if you think that’s easy go ahead and do it. Prepare all that work and make it commercially viable and take it on the road. It takes a lot of work, a lot of determination. The parameters are strict. You have to make something that you can make a lot of,” but also make work that stands out from the rest.
Onodera, who years ago exhibited in art fairs as part of a group, said it is also important “to be very friendly and like people.”
When deciding on what work gets into the show, the jurors see images of three pieces. When Onodera returns to help decide on the award winners, she said: “I want to see consistency —  craftsmanship-wise and design-wise and also originality.”
The economy has been tough for those on the circuit, Brown said. “I’ve had a couple artists say they were very busy doing shows because you have to do more shows to get the same income. Doing the art show circuit is a lot of work.”
The Black Swamp Arts Festival is a favorite for a number of exhibitors, Brown said. Artists tell her “it might not be their top selling show, but it’s their favorite show. They appreciate the ambience, the way they are treated. That, with sales, makes it their favorite show.”

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