|A large crowd is seen on
along Main Street during last year’s 21st annual Black Swamp Arts Festival. (Photo: J.D.
The Black Swamp Arts Festival continues to attract increased interest from artists.
This year the festival’s visual arts committee received 309 applications for the 112 booth spaces that
will line Main Street in Bowling Green, Sept. 6 and 7.
The number of applications has gone up in four of the last five years, said Brenda Baker, who chairs the
visual arts committee. The other year when the economy was bottoming out, applications were
"flat," she said.
The boost in applications dovetails with the festival’s use of ZAPPlication, an online service for
managing art shows.
This year the festival also simplified and clarified the language on its ZAPPlication page.
Still, said Linda Brown, assistant chair of the committee, "word of mouth" is a big factor in
attracting artists. "That’s just something that builds."
Also on the rise is the art show’s ranking in Sunshine Artist, the leading journal for art fair
The festival ranked 59th in the country in last year’s annual list of top 100 Fine Art and Design Shows.
The show has been edging up, one place a year since 2011.
The ranking is based on artist sales.
Brown said maintaining the show’s size – last year 108 juried artists occupying 112 booths – is key to
maintaining sales. When the festival did try to expand the show back in 2006 and 2007, it didn’t work,
she said. It just spreads the art buyers’ dollar thinner.
Baker said that because the show is a non-profit endeavor, it can focus more on serving the needs of the
The attention paid by volunteers who deliver water and watch booths to give the artists a break is
Also, Brown said, the size means a festival-goer can comfortably walk the entire juried show as well as
take in the Wood County Invitational.
That exhibit, open to exhibitors living within 30 miles of Bowling Green, will again be at 50 booths
after last year’s expansion.
For the first time, exhibitors will have to apply using ZAPP. For some, Brown said, "it something of
a learning curve."
But Baker said they’ve been able to help artists out with some issues.
Tom Muir, an art professor from Bowling Green State University, along with Glenna Jennings of the
University of Dayton, helped to select the field. Muir has served in that capacity several times, he
said, and regularly attends the show.
He admits to being a tough judge of the art work, rating most applicants as 3 on a scale of 1 to 5.
"A small number are truly exceptional and a small number are truly terrible."
The jurors view digital images of artists’ work as well as their set ups.
"I was quite impressed with the work," he said.
When looking at the art, he wants "good original ideas, good design, something that’s well made and
Even the quality of the images of work plays a role, Muir said. "Typically if I see bad photography
I’ll reject the work. If it’s not professional overall, if you can’t get a good photograph, I wouldn’t
expect them to follow through with other elements of professionalism."
The same with the layout of the booth. "Their displays reflects the way they do business."
He’s also on the lookout for artists who display a few high quality pieces that are more aimed at
galleries or museums, and then stock their booths with more generic work.
Those artists, Muir said, are often trolling for awards.
It’s a matter of how the displays "reflect on the show itself."
"The committee, and the judges, in the past has done a good job," he said. "They’ve kept
the quality high. Black Swamp has a good reputation."