Art, music combine to create lively atmosphere downtown during Black Swamp Festival

Ashley Hardwick and Ashley Hardwick

Since 1993 The Black Swamp Arts Festival has welcomed various traveling artists, as well as numerous locals to historical downtown Bowling Green.

The free three day festival is famous for its entertainment, performing arts and 150 artists.

Painter Nicole Vanover describes the festival as a “mini mobile gallery.”

“Festivals are a great way for artists to show and sell their work,” she said. “I was incredibly honored to win the Dorothy Uber Bryan award. It was my first year showing paintings at a festival and it was a very big deal to me.”

Jewelry maker Amy Beeler has been attending the festival for years and said selling her sterling silver pieces has always been a success.

“I actually went to BG and started with biology, but that wasn’t my thing,” she said. “I decided to take jewelry [class] because there were no prerequisites, but I didn’t want to take it, which is funny because I fell in love with it.”

She also thinks the music that’s played adds an element that helps sell her art.

“The music does help. I think it’s because when I hear music I’ve never heard before, it invigorates me. Maybe others experience that, too,” she said. “I think it kinda awakens your senses.”

Pottery maker Ann Tubbs agrees the music brings the festival together.

“I think it’s [an atmosphere] of liveliness,” she said. “The community is extremely supportive. It’s what I call a hometown fair.”

Vanover is not returning to the festival this year, but she has participated the past two years.

“It’s a great festival for both the patrons and the artist,” she said. “It seems as though the whole city comes out to support the vendors and learn about their work.”

Not only does the music impact the atmosphere, the other artists do as well.

“It’s always fun to see all my artist friends,” Beeler said. “We’ve become a community. A lot of other artists I see are at shows all around the world.”

The three artists all take pride in the different products they sell and show.

Tubbs does not know exactly how long it takes her to create one of her pottery pieces because she calls herself a “functioning potter.”

“I am self-employed. I have a small business, so I’m working all the time,” she said. “I rarely separate a piece and time myself.”

She says her pottery is useful, made from red clay that she makes and will not chip or crack.

“I make bowls, casseroles, honey pots and anything you would use in the kitchen or serve at the dinner table,” she said. “It’s different because the firing isn’t going to make [the pottery] more beautiful. It has to be that way before it’s fired.”

Vanover describes her paintings as “realistic acrylic paintings” and she says they are quite time consuming.

“I find the inspiration for my work in things I find beautiful in everyday life,” she said. “I come up with an idea that I’d like to tackle and then set up the painting.”

Beeler and Tubbs are both returning this year to the festival.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” she said. “There’s no guarantee you’ll get a re-invite, but I’m always so happy when I do.”