When Will Santino was a child, he didn’t go to the Black Swamp Arts Festival for the art or the music.
He just wanted to hang out with his friends. "You could just run around and play."
When he’d go to bed in his home on Buttonwood Avenue he could hear the music wafting from downtown.
Later as his own interest in art developed and his tastes matured, he’d soak in more of the sights and
sounds of the festival.
After graduating from the College of Wooster in 2011 with a degree in art, he took to the street, working
on his intricately detailed drawings of imaginary creatures at an easel set up outside art-a-site! in
the middle of the juried art show on Main Street.
Now his work is the face of the festival. Santino designed this year’s poster, which was unveiled July
The image of a parade winding its way into Bowing Green and the festival grounds blends Santino’s whimsy
and familiar sites.
The windmills, Jerome Library, the county courthouse and a train in the distance are all part of the
landscape. But on the main stage, a performer blows a horn that sweeps over the audience. Those parading
to the festival are a motley, fantastic crew.
Santino said the poster looks at the festival and his hometown "through a magical realistic
Starting with a blank piece of paper, he brought a mythological Bowling Green "that I like to
image" to life.
The artist imagined a parade. People strolling through the art show are "like an informal
parade," that inspired the notion of "people going to the festival, a pilgrimage kind of
thing. People from this part of Ohio will make the trek for it."
The parade "gave me the opportunity to draw a lot of characters and have a lot of details, and
that’s something I enjoy."
He steps into a tradition of excellence. Previous years’ posters by Amy and Matt Karlovec have been
honored by Sunshine Artist magazine.
Dan Stutzman, who chairs the marketing committee for the festival, recruited Santino for the job.
"I felt like Will was in a unique position to create this poster," he wrote in an email.
"Not only does he have amazing and abundant talent and imagination, he grew up with the
When they first discussed the commission, Stutzman wrote, Santino said he wanted "to show the
community spirit and the fun atmosphere of the Black Swamp Arts Festival."
Stutzman’s assessment: Mission accomplished.
"The poster he created demonstrates what we all love about the Black Swamp Arts Festival. It is a
unique celebration of creativity, fun and community pride."
For Santino, the project is a labor of love.
He now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he works as a white board artist for TruScribe, a company that
creates short explanatory videos for companies. Weird Al Yankovic used the company to create the video
for his song "Mission Statement" from his new number-one album.
Santino said he had only a minor role in that production.
But the job and his own art keep him busy. The festival poster, which he did for free, is the only
outside project he could imagine doing at this point. He’s even stopped taking paid commissions.
"I still work on my own art all the time, writing and illustrating" he said.
He’s been writing a graphic novel, and continuing the never-ending project: one million Moleskine
He’s now filling in his 37th art notebook with illustrations, and stories.
"The doodles and words are just mixed up," Santino said. "It’s one and same, writing and
illustrating are certainly two sides of the same coin which is storytelling. That’s the primary