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Published: Tuesday, 9/8/2009

Black Swamp Arts Festival opens Friday


BOWLING GREEN - If you notice a lot of people walking around the 17th annual Black Swamp Arts Festival this weekend with cameras, well, smile.

Forty people have entered the festival's first-ever Rebel Camera Contest - the brainchild of Kelly Wicks, a longtime volunteer at the festival and co-owner of Grounds for Thought coffee shop.

"We have assembled 40 photo enthusiasts. I don't want to use the word photographer or even amateur photographer," Mr. Wicks said. "These really are people who are just interested in shooting pictures and interested in the Black Swamp Arts Festival."

Their assignment is to take lots of pictures at the three-day festival.

The festival, which is free, opens at 5 p.m. Friday with live music on the Main Stage and plenty of food and drink. It continues through Sunday.

While there is live music all weekend, the art exhibits are only open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. A youth-art area, where children of all ages can make kid-friendly art projects, is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Mr. Wicks said the photos taken over the weekend ultimately will be part of an exhibit to be unveiled Nov. 14 at Grounds for Thought when the downtown coffee shop celebrates its 20th year in business.

He is hoping to get an interesting array of perspectives on the festival, which features a juried art show.

"One thing I always thought was neat about the festival is I always focus on the music. I'm really into that, but when I talk to other people, some spend the whole weekend in the kids' area. Some people feel the visual art is the best part," he said. "Everyone takes something different from the festival."

His photography crew ranges in age from 9 to 70-something.

For a $35 fee for students and $50 for the older photographers, each received a Canon 35mm camera, a camera bag, and three rolls of Fuji 400 film.

Mr. Wicks said he purchased the used cameras on eBay. He said his own digital camera had broken before he went on vacation earlier this year, and he ended up taking his old Canon Rebel with him.

"They were the best photos I'd shot in years," he said.

When he tried to buy a new camera bag, he found them to be quite expensive so he looked on eBay and found he could buy a used camera with a bag for less money. He ended up buying 40 of them and closed the contest after that.

"When I started I was worried I'd have trouble finding 12 people," he said. "I figured people would say, 'Why are you doing that? Film is dead.'•"

The idea has proven popular, and he's hoping it will become an annual event at the festival.

"We're trying to make it a public art project," he said. "I hope it becomes kind of an ongoing thing for the festival."

For more information on the Black Swamp Arts Festival, go to blackswamparts.org.

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