Local blues musician Claudia Swartz, the guiding force behind the festival, says she started the event to expose local folks to the often overlooked musical form that is the blues; however, she that the event has taken off into the stratosphere, soaring like a B.B. King guitar solo.
“Last year’s event drew over 1,800 people to the seven-hour show,” said Swartz. “I started this when I noticed the lack of inclusion of blues music in town and the lack of local venues to display the local talent, such as Robby Reid. But it’s become so popular that we now have many different types of musicians ... I’ve even had to turn away some bands that wanted to play the festival.”
In addition to the blues, bands will present salsa and bluegrass music, to name just a few of the diverse forms, and performance arts will include the always popular belly dancing. There will also be works by local artists for sale at the free event, with 20 percent of the proceeds going to the Friends of the Library program. The event is cosponsored by BeatHeart Productions and the Fayetteville United Musicians and Artists.
Swartz, who describes herself as a “community activist,” says she’s organized the past festivals — including the recent 4th Annual Artist Blues Showcase — mostly on her own, and is hoping to get a little help.
“It would be great to get some sponsors,” she said. “It’s really gotten so big that it’s hard for me to do it all on my own.”
Swartz says she is looking for folks to help provide the following goods and services: monetary donations to purchase old doors and other decorating items for the Pate Room, food donations for the musicians, rental of lighting for the art works, help transporting bulky items to the Pate Room.
Among the musicians and bands on tap for the show — which is scheduled to run from noon to 7 p.m. — are: Mighty Blue, Andrea P., Mama’s Pride, Danny Nieves, Jan Petty, Pitch Blue, Corky Jones, Tony Baldwin, In That Tone, Mandy Barnes, Chris Cox, the Greg Grimes Band, Giant Drum, Ray King, Tom Beckwith, Kenny Huffman, Robbie Reid, Blue Sky, and Steve Trank.
Visual artists include: Courtnee Hummel, Judy Anderson, Jeff Coleman, Tracy Gow, Dorothy Finiello, Robin Garr, Harold Grace, Govina Taylor, Ashley Jones, Fayetteville State University students and Flossie Wilson.
Swartz, who came here from Atlanta, says the event has helped initiate local residents to the blues — a musical art form often relegated to the dustbin of artistry by popular culture.
“I helped to really start a renaissance of sorts in the blues when I was in Atlanta and it is really spreading there now,” said Swartz. “With the help of local blues musicians such as Robbie Reid and jazz musician Corky Jones, more and more people are getting turned on to the blues here in Cumberland County.”
She says here intent is to use the blues to help transform her adopted hometown of Hope Mills into a musical showcase of sorts for local artists.
And she wants to get the youngsters turned on to the blues.
“Next year I want to bring a blues program, to the schools,” said Swartz. “And I also want to start up a summer blues camp for guitar players.”
If you’d like more information on the Bohemian Arts & Music Festival, or would like to donate money, goods, or time, contact Swartz at email@example.com.