Penticton Academy of Music turns instruments into visual art

Artist Beverly Inkster at the Lloyd Gallery with the colorful violin she created for the Encore refurbished musical instrument auction at Theo
Artist Beverly Inkster at the Lloyd Gallery with the colorful violin she created for the Encore refurbished musical instrument auction at Theo's Restaurant, June 4. A total of 16 instruments will be open for bids in support of the Penticton Academy of Music. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are available at Theo's and the Academy. The artworks are on display at varoius locations around town and can be viewed online at www.pentictonacademyofmusic.blogspot.ca.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

From making sounds to please the ears to becoming a treat for the eyes, the Penticton Academy of Music is upcycling instruments into pieces of art.

Transformations of 15 retired violins and one baritone that were destined for disposal have become works of art being auctioned off as a fundraiser for the academy. Local artists made over the academy instruments, preparing them for their new lives as works of art for the Encore! Repurposed violin fundraiser taking place on June 4 at 6 p.m. at Theo’s Restaurant

Local artist Johann Wessels had made a decision that he no longer was going to donate his work to anything other than art galleries when, within a week, this opportunity was brought to him. Growing up in South Africa, Wessels spent much of his childhood listening to the screech and wails coming from his sisters cello as she worked away learning the craft. This was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“A lot of her friends were violinists and I grew up with a lot of respect for these instruments. For all the years I had to put up with awful, awful learning cellist and violinists scraping away, I was excited and reverent to try this. As well, I have a childlike urge to take things apart and see how they look on the inside,” said Wessels.

With a keen interest in learning the history of the focus subject in his work, Wessels cracked open one of the violins for one of his pieces called Portable Heritage. For Wessels, the violin had a story to tell which is why he decided to open it up to investigate more. He found the name of violin maker and the year it was crafted, 1927, a year before his father was born.

“For me the inside of the violin had a story to tell. The idea that there were people who carried their whole musical heritage with them in the violin  and taught their children how to play it touched me because we moved from South Africa and packed our boxes from one place to another quite a lot of times. The idea of packing things, emotional packages inside the violin and turning it into sort of small suitcase appealed to me. It is physical objects, but metaphorical in nature, that all these things would be hiding inside the violin,” said Wessels.

Wessels said he never played an instrument himself, but tried to uphold the respect for the violin, despite what his musician sister said.

“I posted photographs to my sister and her friends and their reaction to my sawing open the violin was worse than being found out for murder. It was like I couldn’t have done anything worse, but after they found out what I planned to do and that I treated it with respect they were pleasantly surprised by it,” said Wessels.

Jacinta Ferrari, who works with the non-profit Penticton Academy of Music society, said it was interesting to hear all the stories from the artists who were involved.

“There were all these memories that are brought out when the artists are working on the musical instruments, in particular the violins. It is interesting for the artists because it is a totally new surface for them to work on and freeing in a sense. They are doing something different and it was bringing out memories of music and the associations they have with it,” said Ferrari.

Proceeds raised from the event will be used to buy new instruments. The Penticton Academy of Music rents them out to students and the smaller sized violins in particular are in high demand.

The academy also offers bursaries to students who want private lessons but may not be able to afford them and supplement special programing they offer in youth group courses to keep the prices low and affordable for families.

Encore! A Repurposed Violin Fundraiser dinner and auction tickets are $40 and are available at Theo’s Restaurant or at the Penticton Academy of Music Office at the Leir House located at 220 Manor Park Ave.

View the pieces available for auction at www.pentictonacademyofmusic.blogspot.ca.

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