Already in the late 19th Century, the small medieval town of Schwalenberg became, due to the beauty of the landscape, the quiet harmony and the extraordinary light conditions, a favourite place for impressionist landscape painters. Painters from Düsseldorf, Berlin and other cities came to Schwalenberg for plein-air painting. With the presentation of their works in exhibitions outside of Schwalenberg and personal contacts to other artists, the popularity of Schwalenberg grew and the town was soon called an “Artists town” or an “Artists´ colony”.
As one of the founders of the artists´ colony with a long-term stay, counts Hans Bruch (1887-1913), a painter from Berlin. He first came to Schwalenberg in 1906, after only a short while he held an exhibition in Berlin showing motives of Schwalenberg. Beginning 20th Century the guesthouse “Meier”, the so-called „Künstlerklause“ became the centre of the new artists´colony.
Among the artists who work regularly in Schwalenberg were Franz Edouard Rothe (1887-1975) and Franz Born (1881-1917) from Berlin, Robert Koepke (1893-1968) from Bremen, Friedrich Eicke (1883-1975) from Düsseldorf; as well as Ernst Rötteken (1882-1945) from Detmold, Magnus Zeller (1888-1972) from Berlin, Elisabeth (Else) Ruest (1861-1945) from Hannover, Hans Licht (1876-1935) and his students from Berlin, among them Nelly Cunow (born 1893), and many others. After the heydays of the artists´colony in the 1920s followed a phase of stagnation. After the post war years only a few artists came to town. Alone, the painter Robert Kämmerer-Rohrig lived in Schwalenberg from 1949 to 1977.
Since 1978, the County of Lippe, the Cultural agency of Lippe and the town of Schieder-Schwalenberg want to carry on the art tradition. By focusing on contemporary cultural trends, the old artists´colony is filled with new life. Apart from the scholarships in Fine Arts and the Schwalenberger Summer Academy, there are 8-10 exhibitions each year, shown in the Municipal Museum and the Robert Koepke House. The exhibitions count to the cultural highlights of Schwalenberg. The “Night of Art” is taking place every two years with special events and openings of exhibitions. In collaboration with other cultural institutions the „Night of Art“ offers a versatile program.