Arts fest expands area for local art
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Friday, 13 July 2012 10:31
Demand to enter the juried art show at the Black Swamp Arts Festival remains strong, and now, thanks to a new online procedure, the number of artists applying to be in the Wood County Show has ticked up.
The 20th Black Swamp Arts Festival begins Sept. 7 with music on the main stage, and continues with the art shows, music and children's activities Sept. 8 and 9 in downtown Bowling Green. The festival received 250 applications for 108 spots in the juried show that lines Main Street.
That's similar to the number who applied last year, said Brenda Baker, the chair of the festival's visual arts committee. The festival saw a growth in applications three years ago when it started using the ZAPP application for artists. While the show organizers were warned that they would be inundated with less qualified artists, that's not been the case. Instead the quality of art has improved.
Part of that, Baker said, is that the economy and high gas prices has pruned the art fair field.
"It's exposed us to a broader audience of artists," Baker said of using ZAPP. "It keeps us fresher."
Linda Brown, the immediate past chair of the visual arts committee, said that 32 of the artists exhibiting have never participated in the show before. The selection, which is left to a panel of outside jurors, gets more selective. This year even a few previous award winners didn't make the cut, Baker said.
"It's going to be a strong show," Baker said.
ArtFair Sourcebook has placed the festival in its top 200 shows and it has received plaudits as well from Sunshine Artist. It ranked 61st in its listing of the top 200 Fine Art and Design shows.
These rankings, Brown said, are based exclusively on sales, not on other factors, such as the festival's much praised hospitality.
This year the committee decided to have the Wood County Show go to online applications. That show is open to all artists within a 30-mile radius. In the past it has not been selective, with all but a few artists getting spots.
This year, with applications up 33 percent, the field had to be culled. That was needed even after Baker and Brown worked out a new layout for the Huntington parking lot that allows them to fit in 52 booths, instead of the usual 40, while still allowing ample room between them.
"Because we were able to select from a larger body of work we were able to increase the quality," Baker said.
The show remains "all local," she said, and boasts "a huge diversity in media."
Catherine Royer, one of the three jurors who decided on most of the juried art field - art artists who won awards in the previous festival are automatically given entrance and have their application fee waived - said she expects art lovers attending the festival to be pleased with the quality of art available for purchase this year.
"I'm always looking for things that have a contemporary vibe. ... I like to see some of the 21st century represented," she said.  Not, she added, that she excludes more traditional work.
A printmaker and painter herself, she said she looks for "a fresh approach ... a feeling that the artist's personality is really stamped on that city scene or portrait." She said there weren't as many painters, printmaker and photographers as she expected, though there was a number of fiber artists.
Fiber is one of the increasingly popular media, Brown said. Woodworking is also seeing growth.
The most popular medium, however, remains jewelry.
Royer and the other jurors, Kelly Malec-Kosak and Luke Sheets, will return on Sept. 8 to decide on award winners. "It's always better to see the art in person no matter how good the images are," Royer said. "I'm always surprised."
She's also looking forward to the "festival atmosphere."
Andy Van Schyndle, whose paintings in a style he terms "Midwest surrealism," also enjoys the event.
Last year, his first, Van Schyndle won the Bryan Award for two-dimensional work.
In confirming he would return, he told the committee: "Your show was probably my favorite one last year out of the 20 I did. ... I've been telling a lot of my friends in the business about what a perfectly run and laid out show it is and how awesome the crowds are."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 13:36

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