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‘One-of-a-kind’ violins, cello repurposed as art for Lethbridge youth music program fundraiser

Karen Tamminga-Paton's piece featured birds.
Karen Tamminga-Paton's piece featured birds. Courtesy: Breeanne Fuller

These eight instruments are unlike anything you’ve ever seen; the way the colours dance across the violins’ bodies create a new type of musical art.

Alberta artists painted seven well-used violins and one cello for a University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music fundraiser on May 11.

Instead of laying the fiddles from the Conservatory’s 150-instrument collection to waste, the institute had another idea.

READ MORE: Young Lethbridge violinist wins regional gold medal, dreams of being ‘professional soloist’ (2016)

“Some of them over the years have become unplayable, and so we were like, ‘What should we do with them?'” said Conservatory director Breeanne Fuller on Saturday.

“So we approached a few artists and it kind of literally snowballed where people were like, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to be part of this!’ And we ended up with some really big-name artists who wanted to contribute — it’s been pretty unbelievable.”

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Painters include Kari Lehr, Karen Tamminga-Paton and Tony Partridge among others.

Crowsnest Pass artist Kari Lehr's violin featured a black bear in a prairie wilderness setting.
Crowsnest Pass artist Kari Lehr's violin featured a black bear in a prairie wilderness setting. Courtesy: University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music
Crowsnest Pass artist Kari Lehr's violin featured a black bear in a prairie wilderness setting.
Crowsnest Pass artist Kari Lehr's violin featured a black bear in a prairie wilderness setting. Courtesy: Breeanne Fuller
Crowsnest Pass artist Kari Lehr's violin featured another bear on the back.
Crowsnest Pass artist Kari Lehr's violin featured another bear on the back. Courtesy: University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music
Mark Robinson's violin creation.
Mark Robinson's violin creation. Courtesy: Breeanne Fuller
Karen Tamminga-Paton's piece featured birds.
Karen Tamminga-Paton's piece featured birds. Courtesy: Breeanne Fuller
Words scrawled on the back of a violin.
Words scrawled on the back of a violin. Courtesy: Breeanne Fuller
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Artist Tony Partridge’s classic style featured a floral front and an angelic back, providing two unique display options.
Artist Tony Partridge’s classic style featured a floral front and an angelic back, providing two unique display options. Courtesy: University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music
Artist Tony Partridge’s classic style featured a floral front and an angelic back, providing two unique display options.
Artist Tony Partridge’s classic style featured a floral front and an angelic back, providing two unique display options. Courtesy: Breeanne Fuller
Artist Tony Partridge’s classic style featured a floral front and an angelic back, providing two unique display options.
Artist Tony Partridge’s classic style featured a floral front and an angelic back, providing two unique display options. Courtesy: University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music
Diana Zasadny's dotted masterpiece.
Diana Zasadny's dotted masterpiece. Courtesy: Breeanne Fuller
The back of Diana Zasadny's creation.
The back of Diana Zasadny's creation. Courtesy: University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music
A cello converted into a shelf with a clock at its centre.
A cello converted into a shelf with a clock at its centre. Courtesy: Breeanne Fuller
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A floral piece of violin art.
A floral piece of violin art. Courtesy: University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music
A violin creation with doll arms.
A violin creation with doll arms. Courtesy: University of Lethbridge Conservatory of Music

It might be possible to squeeze a tune out of the stunning stringed instruments, but that’s not their main purpose anymore, Fuller said.

“They were just instruments that we felt didn’t have the best sound and they’ve just been abused over the years,” Fuller noted. “So they technically could still be used, but they’re definitely more like an art piece now.”

Each painting is different, with designs featuring bears, birds, flowers, abstract impressionism and doll hands. There’s even a cello converted into a shelf with a clock at its centre.

“To get your hands on this original piece that will never be turned into a print — I mean for collectors, this would be a one-of-a-kind item,” Fuller said.

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“I think it’s a conversation starter, too. If someone picks up one of these items and has it in their home, it’s like, who wouldn’t ask more questions about it?”

Fuller appreciates the hours of work that went into creating such meticulous art.

“Some of the artists have commented that they feel like if I were to put a value on it, they feel like the amount of time that they spent, it would be $1,200 to $1,500 each,” Fuller said.​

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“It’s just really generous to know that they have taken that much time and made such a perfect creation.”

Intensive youth program

The money from the first-ever fundraiser supports subsidies for the Young Artists Music Academy, a performance-based program for teenage musicians who sing or play strings, percussion or piano.

Fuller founded the classical music enrichment initiative in 2017. About 35 students spend five to seven hours a week building skills and being “immersed in what they love,” Fuller said.

Because the program is so intensive, it costs over $3,000 per student per year. The subsidy gets it down to about $600.

There are no minimum bids at the live auction, which is called Piano by Request, and advanced bids will be accepted until May 10.