Black Swamp artists reflect on festival’s significance


Eric Burgasser

A view of Main Street during the Black Swamp Arts Festival.

By Kyrstin James and By Kyrstin James

Food, art and people filled downtown Bowling Green this weekend at the Black Swamp Arts Festival.

Art plastered every booth, store front and street corner of Main Street as artists displayed their work to festival attendees.

For local artists like Tobe Drew, manager of Ink Mafia, the festival was an opportunity to learn, inspire and create.

“(The festival) allows us to take a look at outer-artist culture and learn from them. It’s a great way to connect with artists from across the world, forming lifetime bonds,” said Drew.

“Art has afforded me an amazing life and Bowling Green is my canvas,” said Drew.

The festival was also an opportunity to see a variety of different kinds of art.

Artist Jan Byron of Dallas, Texas, had a booth lined with little dolls wrapped in colorful crochet. These dolls did not have faces, but quotes. Each was different, with its own inspiration.

“I call them my muses because they are about words and how they teach us to be better people,” said Byron.

Vendors and artists come from all over the country to attend BSAF.

George Bragg of Panama City, Florida, along with his fiancé and dog, lives in a camper and travels the country making art and attending art shows.

Referring to BSAF, Bragg said, “This is just an art mecca. I do shows all over the country, but this is always a great show for me. It’s very supported by the community.”

His pieces combine “found art” and metal work to create wall décor. The intricate copper and brass sheets, hammered and pieced together with little elements of stone and wood, each held a story all their own. Bragg went around his tent pointing out his found art and recalling how he had come across it.

Glass artist Karen Breitwieser of Sylvania, Ohio, had a booth where wind chimes chimed in the wind and glass pieces sparkled in the sunshine. This year’s BSAF was successful for her in sales.

“I have had a lot of sales today, so I am a very happy camper. I have had shows where I didn’t sell anything. When you hit a show like this, it really lifts you up and pushes you to the next one,” Breitwieser said.

She said she found her passion for glass through a class at an art museum.

“I took a class at the art museum and I had my choice between glass blowing and warm glass. The glass blowing class was full, so I took warm glass and the rest is history,” said Breitwieser.

Some attendees of BSAF, like Mark Mohrenweiser of Ann Arbor, Michigan, find the festival to be inviting and engaging.

“The past couple of years (BSAF) has been good,” Mohrenweiser said. “The people are nice and supportive. People are willing to talk. There are some shows where they do more walking than stopping and interacting.”

Drew agreed that community is what brings the festival to life.

“This is the most amazing art community I have ever been a part of,” Drew said. “It is a cornucopia of amazingness.”