LONGMONT — For a few, brief moments, the artists were apprehensive.
They had been selected for this opportunity — to artistically enhance violins purchased by the Longmont Symphony Orchestra for its “The Art of Music” project. Suddenly, the idea was daunting.
The dark, wooden surface seemed too precious for Jon Eggers to paint. Claire McArdle feared that her somewhat involved plans for the instrument might not be feasible, considering the delicate structure of the violin’s neck and the density of the terra cotta she was using.
Becky Everitt, meanwhile, recalled the viola she once played for the Longmont Symphony Orchestra, suddenly aware of the fact that she was about to turn an emotionally valuable object into a painted replica of the Rocky Mountain landscape.
“I expected to have old, secondhand violins,” Everitt said, recalling how intimidated she was by one of the 23 violins purchased for the LSO’s fundraising effort. “That was just really a weird feeling to paint on this beautiful brand new one.”
Once the reluctance subsided, however, the artists knew this wasn’t desecration. They were simply carrying the torch of a trend that, for one reason or another, hadn’t made it to Longmont’s rich artistic community until recently.
“The Art of Music” commissions local artists to personalize musical instruments using their craft and places the finished pieces in a public forum for all to see before they are auctioned at a May 21 event at The Great Frame Up.
Similar programs have been introduced as fundraising efforts in cities across the country — members of the American Symphony League have coordinated projects that honor creativity, including the Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra’s “The Sound of Color” Gala Auction.
The general goal has been to support local symphony orchestras and solidify the bond between each area’s musical and visual art branches.
For its part, the Longmont Symphony Orchestra has offered a creative outlet for both professional and amateur artists, purchasing seven of the 23 violins for area high school students to revamp.
The remaining 16 violins were placed in the care of the 17 professional artists who answered last fall’s call for entries for the project: Tammy Bality; Carolyn Bradley; Wendy Carmichael; Jon Eggers; Becky Everitt; Bryan Helm; Maya Heneghan; Teri Jurgens Lefever; Jane King; Tim and Margaret King; Kay Loa Knifer; Claire McArdle; Lonnie Nixon; Kathleen Reilly; Susana Santamaria; and Gretel Wolniewicz.
Each person was selected based upon an artist statement and sketches of possible designs for the violins. Once alerted that they were on board, the artists were given one rule to follow.
“There are no rules,” says Carol Minelli, event co-chairwoman. “When you start putting rules on things, we felt like we were inhibiting the creativity of the artist.”
Tim King, who generally specializes in sculpture, turned his violin on its head, then mounted thin, metal pipes onto the scroll, which he attached to a turntable.
He and his wife bought cream-colored Russian point shoes and a pink tutu, which Margaret King steadied onto the hips of the inanimate prima ballerina — an homage to their 9-year-old daughter and six-year ballet student, Faith. Other finishing touches included a painted pink bodice and a small, metallic tiara, which the Kings attached to the chin rest.
Meanwhile, Lefever paid homage to the art of caves by using faux finishing on her violin. Her love of all things equestrian was echoed on the piece; she even cut off a piece of her horse’s hair and attached it to the violin’s scroll.
McArdle and Bality’s violins underwent metamorphoses. Bality fused the necks of her violin and of her son’s guitar to extend her Morin Khuur, or Mongolian horse-head fiddle. McArdle used terra cotta to anchor her violin, into which she stuck her sculpted doll part pieces.
It’s one thing to see a photograph of Bryan Helm’s “Night & Day Violin”; it’s quite another experience to look at the meticulously placed beads and celestial centerpieces up close at Snyder Jewelers, where the violin is currently on display.
Were it not for the displays — six of the violins are at the Longmont Public Library, the others at Snyder Jewelers — the subtlety of Wolniewicz’s tissue-paper collage might go unappreciated; the lyrics that appear on Santamaria’s “Eleanor Rigby” and the words that trickle down the sides of Knifer’s “The Apple of My Eye” would be indiscernible.
And in a day and age where getting people off their couches to go out and appreciate live art is oftentimes a novelty, drawing people out to see just how creative their neighbors are is a starting point for change.
If you go
What: “The Art of Music,” artistically enhanced violins
On display: Through May 20 at the Longmont Public Library, Fourth Avenue and Emery Street; Snyder Jewelers, 2201 Ken Pratt Boulevard through April; The Great Frame Up, 430 Main St., in May
Auction: “The Art of Music” Gala and Auction, May 21 at The Great Frame Up
Tickets: $30, two for $50 for May 21 event
More info: 303-772-5796
Valerie Singleton can be reached at 303-684-5319, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.