By: Bill O’Connell
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
You may not have noticed but the Village of Swanton is quickly becoming one of the most popular “go to” destinations for the art community of Northwest Ohio where artists from around the area can display their talents and even sell their work if they are so inclined and art aficionados can peruse the artistic offerings and purchase what is to their liking.
For the third consecutive year the Swanton Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the Swanton Fine Art Exhibit and Sale, an open juried event, at Valleywood Golf Club on Saturday and Sunday, October 21 and 22. There will be 204 works of art from 78 different artists competing in nine separate two-dimensional categories, ranging in everything from paintings to drawings to photography.
What began as the brainchild of Neil Toeppe, Executive Director of the Swanton Chamber, has grown from a bit of an experimental venture into a must-attend event in just three short years. In 2012, with the Chamber’s Party in the Park affair becoming increasingly less popular and generating very little revenue for its members, Mr. Toeppe was looking for an event to replace it, an event that would not only make better use of Chamber funds but also portray the Swanton community in a positive light.
“I got to thinking, what would create a real positive image for the community, be more positive for the youth of the community, and attract other individuals and businesses from outside Swanton that would look upon Swanton more favorably,” said Mr. Toeppe. “I thought possibly an art exhibit or some sort of art event would be worth looking into.”
He decided to reach out to local individuals who were involved with art to gauge the interest and determine if his idea was even feasible. A committee was soon formed and, despite more than a few eyebrows being raised by the thought of a fine art exhibit in Swanton, they forged ahead. The organizers settled on the banquet facilities of Valleywood Golf Club on Airport Highway as a venue and set prize money well above the average of other local exhibits to attract a high quality of art. After 18 months of hard work, the first exhibit was held in October of 2014 with 99 pieces of art displayed and was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Since the success of the inaugural exhibit, the interest has skyrocketed. This year’s event has not only doubled in entries with 204 pieces but includes 57 adult artists from three different states and 21 youth entries from nine different high schools. It is also being sponsored by 88 individuals and businesses with more than half of those coming from outside the Swanton community.
In addition to this year’s substantial prize money, the Swanton Fine Art Exhibit will be awarding scholarships to several youth winners with the top amount of $1000 going to the Best in Show.
On Friday night at 7:00 pm the Artists Reception will be held and a panel of judges, two from the Toledo Museum of Art and one from the BGSU Fine Art Gallery, will select the winners and second and third place finishers based on artistic merit.
On Saturday from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm and Sunday from noon until 5:00 pm, the exhibit will be open to the general public. There is no charge for admission and all attendees are encouraged to vote for the People’s Choice Award.
Sometime after the exhibit all winners will be invited to the Awards Dinner where they will each receive a written proclamation from Ohio Governor John Kasich and Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor. The proclamations will be presented by his Northwest Ohio Regional Liaison LuAnne Cooke.
Bill O’Connell may be reached at