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Vibrant violins

Caramie SchnellVail, CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyEagle resident Katie Dowling, an artist featured at Vail Fine Art Gallery, painted this classic black and white violin.
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Classical music isnt just for the enjoyment of the privileged class and isnt only beloved by the rich. With that idea, local artist and gallery owner Jim Cotter came up with a plan for the unfinished, raw violin in front of him a few months ago. You think of Bravo! and the Philharmonic as high brow, when in essence there are an awful lot of working class people who like classical music as well, who listen to it in the workplace in factories or industrial work areas, Cotter said.

Cotters classical music notions translated into a serious, sans-whimsical violin. He painted a thin layer of concrete on the violin and then bit steel pieces to fit the outside of the violin and built a steel base for the violin to sit upon. Afterwards, Cotter purposely rusted the steel to heighten the industrial look, he said.The concrete covered string instrument is one of 20 such instruments being showcased around the valley as part of Bravo!s Violin Project. To celebrate 20 years of classical music performances in the Vail Valley, Bravo! coordinators decided to fuse music and art with the project. Jason Denhart, Bravo!’s Festival Events Director, approached mostly local galleries who had supported Bravo! over the years about commissioning their artists to paint the violins.

Rayla Kundolf, director of Masters Gallery, asked two of the galleries popular artists Steve Kaufman and Carrie Fell to paint the violins. It was kind of a no-brainer Steve is a hip new pop icon artist, he was Warhols assistant, and he paints on guitars already. We sell a lot of his pieces and we thought that would be a good draw for the auction.Carrie I chose because shes a Colorado artist who is very international now. Shes having her first museum show this year and shes shown at the Cowgirl and Cowboy Hall of Fames. She uses very bright colors and people love her, Kundolf said. A brightly colored cowboy decorates a black background on Fells violin. Kaufmans violin is also bright, with alternating stripes of color orange, pink, blue, red, mustard yellow and olive green.The themes ran the gamut, from seasonal Aspen trees, to cowboy themes, to winter and skiing, and some that were more abstract, Denhart said. One woman did a nursery rhyme theme from, Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon. It has the plate and spoon running up a lane. It was very creative. We gave the artists full artistic license. Eagle artist Katie Dowling chose a classical black and white pattern print of Columbines and other flowers to paint on her violin. I thought it would pair nicely with the classical theme of Bravo!, Dowling said.Gina Olson, administrator at Vail Fine Art Gallery, called Dowling an up-and-coming artist.Her violin is youthful, with an upbeat design of black and white, Olson said.Olson also commissioned Don Sahli, a Russian trained impressionist artist, and Amy Dixon, whose violin has a paint brush and three paint tubes lying on top and is attached to a canvas depicting a Venice bridge scene, to also paint violins. We chose these artists because all are very talented as well as local Colorado natives, Olson said.

It was at the end of the 2006 Bravo! season that the Bravo! crew came up with the idea and initial plan for the painted violin project. They ordered the raw, unfinished violins last October.They came literally on a slow boat from China, Denhart said. We assumed wed get them within four to six weeks but three-and-a-half months later they were still stuck in the San Francisco port.The violins were being held up because of paperwork and inspection issues associated with Homeland Security and the Patriot Act, Denhart said.Thank God we had ordered them so early. We were hoping to get the violins to the artists before Christmas but we didnt get them to the artists until Presidents Day Weekend, Denhart said.Though it was a little bit of a nail biter, Denhard said the artists turned the violins around quickly. And were very happy with what they came up with, Denhart said. The 20 violins, 20 artists, and Bravo!s 20th anniversary will all be celebrated on, you guessed it, July 20. The violins will be auctioned off that evening at the Roaring 20s themed dinner, dance and auction gala at the Vail Marriott.Its a flapper and dapper theme it should be quite fun, Denhart said.Until the gala, the violins can be viewed at the participating galleries and at Bravo!s indoor, Vilar Center concerts. The entire collection can be viewed online at http://www.vailmusicfestival.org.Arts & Entertainment Writer Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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