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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Volunteers work hard to prepare for festival

Just two weeks into the semester, art students at the University are already working hard to prepare for a major exhibition of their pieces the Black Swamp Arts Festival, a three-day event celebrating a wide range of artistic mediums and cultures that happens next weekend.

In the glass blowing shop, where large furnaces heat the room well over 100 degrees, students work methodically on pieces that will be sold at the festival.

Missy Brown and Brynn Hurlstone, juniors enrolled in an advanced glass blowing class, described how many of the glass blowing students finish pieces in time for the festival.

‘We work in teams, like production-style,’ Brown said. ‘I would do half of it and then hand it off to [my partner].’

Hurlstone said the method is a way to get the work done faster while maintaining its quality.

‘It’s like the assembly line of the glass world,’ Hurlstone said with a grin.

Choosing which pieces to sell and which pieces to hold off for a competition is one that’s necessary for the students to make, according to Steve Cothem, assistant professor of glass blowing at the University.

‘It’s a balancing act,’ he said, ‘what do I have to make to pay the gas bill and what do I have to make to get into a gallery?’

The ability to know that one can become marketable opens lots of doors to make an impact on the art world, Cothem said.

Upstairs in the clay working classroom, senior Jessica Donnell said she’s participated in the Arts Festival for the last four years.

‘I sell a lot of my work,’ Donnell said. ‘I held back a couple of my pieces for entering into shows, but most of the functional pieces, I put out for sale.’

The festival is a great opportunity in two ways, Donnell said.

‘For one, [the festival is] for the studio to bring in visiting artists for sale and make money to help buy supplies,’ she said. ‘And two, for the students in order to see visiting artists’ [work].’

Bringing in a variety of talented outside artists is a priority for the Black Swamp Arts Festival committee, according to festival Chairman Matt Karlovec.

In addition to more than 100 artists that will set up booths on Main Street, the BSAF will feature musical artists from genres like rockabilly, Celtic and electronica.

‘We’re trying to provide a venue so someone can come down and get exposed to various types of music that are not commonly accessible in Bowling Green,’ Karlovec said.

To coordinate the almost two dozen musical artists coming next weekend, a committee of 25 people meet all year long to plan the event.

‘Planning begins immediately after the [previous] festival ends,’ Karlovec said. ‘As a group, we work very well in that each group has a responsibility to organize each of their committees.’

The committee oversees roughly 750 volunteers who are residents of the city, students at Bowling Green High School and are from the University.

‘It’s 100 percent volunteer,’ Karlovec said. ‘It’s a makeup of the community as a whole.’

While many of the events are either inherited from previous years or tweaked versions of previously-used ones, the BSAF committee strives to add new material each year.

One such event is ‘Peanut Butter ‘amp; Rock,’ a set of activities and popular musical artists for teen-agers coordinated by junior high and high school students.

‘Something for that age bracket is missing so [Peanut Butter ‘amp; Rock] fills that,’ Karlovec said. ‘It’s kind of ‘by the students, for the students.”

One of the committee’s biggest challenges is evaluating the previous festival, Karlovec said.

‘We don’t wanna get stagnant,’ he said.

At the end of the day, though, all the work put into the BSAF is for the sake of highlighting Bowling Green’s unique culture.

‘Our goal is to put on a weekend of arts and culture and hopefully expose the community to outside art,’ Karlovec said, ‘and show off the community to those visitors who come in.

‘Bowling Green really has a unique cause of culture and diversity, being a college town.’

In the glass blowing studio, Brown might agree.

‘[The festival is] very good for the town because it’s very artistic and cultural and it’s something to do in Bowling Green,’ she said, laughing.

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