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Old instruments get new life with Painted Violins fundraiser for youth orchestra

Young musicians benefit from Painted Violins fundraiser

Jan Hohman, of Altrusa Gig Harbor, and Lynn Stevenson, a local artist, discus the painted violins fundraiser supporting scholarships for the Peninsula Youth Orchestra.
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Jan Hohman, of Altrusa Gig Harbor, and Lynn Stevenson, a local artist, discus the painted violins fundraiser supporting scholarships for the Peninsula Youth Orchestra.

Though they are no longer able to play music, a collection of dilapidated string instruments have been given a new look and purpose from several Gig Harbor artists as part of a fundraiser for local youth.

The Painted Violins fundraiser auction is being organized by Altrusa International of Gig Harbor to raise money for its scholarship fund for the Peninsula Youth Orchestra, said Nancy Hohenstein, Altrusa president.

“The purpose of the fund that we set up when we worked with the group that started Peninsula Youth Orchestra was to provide scholarships. There isn’t a string program in Peninsula School District,” she said. “There is a fee for lessons and for participation in the orchestra. For those families who can’t afford that, we have the scholarship.”

The idea for the fundraiser came from past president Jan Hohman, who heard of the event from a symphony in the Midwest which had done the fundraiser.

The purpose of the fund that we set up when we worked with the group that started Peninsula Youth Orchestra was to provide scholarships. There isn’t a string program in Peninsula School District. There is a fee for lessons and for participation in the orchestra. For those families who can’t afford that, we have the scholarship.

Nancy Hohenstein, president of Altrusa International of Gig Harbor

Altrusa Gig Harbor has pledged $2K annually to the Peninsula Youth Orchestra for scholarships, which will support between eight and 12 students in the program each year.

Instruments for the event — which included a mandolin, cello, viola, guitar and several violins — were donated by the youth orchestra, Ted Brown Music in Tacoma and Gig Harbor’s Allstar Guitar, owned by Dan and May Wilson.

“I had a number of those (instruments) in the shop,” Dan Wilson said. “When they came to me about Altrusa, I thought this was the perfect use for those instruments.”

Wilson is on the board of Crime Stoppers for Pierce County and part of the Groove Music for Youth program, which donates easily repaired instruments to at-risk youth.

“My wife, May, and I are firm believers that every kid should have something in sports and something in the arts, be it sculpture, art or music. We think it contributes to well-rounded kids, which translates into well-rounded adults,” he said. “I think anybody and everybody if you were to ask them to list half dozen important things in their life … I’m sure a lot of them would put music on the list. It’s such a universal thing.”

My wife, May, and I are firm believers that every kid should have something in sports and something in the arts, be it sculpture, art or music.

Dan Wilson, owner of Allstar Guitar

In business since 2003, Allstar has between 250 and 300 students come through its doors weekly, taking a wide variety of musical lessons from the academy’s 18 instructors.

“We don’t treat it like another school class … we treat it as something joyful to have in your life,” Wilson said of the music lessons. “Both my wife and I feel that we’re very lucky to be able to do this. To see it with the kids and have them come back and tell you that they’re still playing, or bring their CD they’ve recorded, or invite you to a performance they’re having, that’s what it’s about.”

After receiving the donated instruments, Hohenstein said the group reached out to local artists about the fundraising project.

“Then we started talking to artists. It was really amazing how excited the artists locally were,” she said. “They just kind of snatched them up; we ran out of instruments before we ran out of artists. They came up with wonderful ideas. They were themed all over the place.”

Jennifer Beard is one of the local artists who participated in the event, using acrylic paint to create her “Octopus Virtuoso” on a violin.

Then we started talking to artists. It was really amazing how excited the artists locally were. They just kind of snatched them up, we ran out of instruments before we ran out of artists. They came up with wonderful ideas. They were themed all over the place.

Hohenstein

“Art is just something that’s fascinated me,” Beard said. “I’m not an artist by training.”

Beard, an employee at Harbor Wildwatch in downtown Gig Harbor, has completed the year-long Natural Science Illustration program at the University of Washington, building on top of her self-taught artistic knowledge.

She had done several illustrations for Harbor Wildwatch staff to use as learning guides and tools with students and the Painted Violins auction is her first piece of art for sale.

“It was really fun,” Beard said. “It’s a neat idea. The youth orchestra is a great program.”

Other artists who participated in the fundraiser include Brad Stave, Doug Hohenstein, Jill Neumeister, Lynn Stevenson, Melinda Curtin, Polli Phippen, Susan Locke, Marta Leon, Mary Jackson, Jane Henson, Carol Virak and the Woodland Waterfall Artists.

The auction, which went live online June 1 and will run through June 30, has been growing in popularity, with the instruments traveling around Gig Harbor to be viewed in different locations, Hohenstein said.

“It hasn’t been hard to do. It’s been amazingly easy,” she said of the fundraiser. “But maybe that’s because we’ve had amazingly cooperative artists.”

The instruments are currently on display at the Gig Harbor Pierce County Library through June 23, then they will be part of the 20th annual Gig Harbor Garden Tour at the home of Jan Hohman, 1801 49th St. Ct. NW on June 24 and 25. From June 26 to 30, the instruments will be on display in various downtown Gig Harbor stores, including Maritime Jewelers, Tickled Pink, Gallery Row and Harbor Wildwatch.

The auction is available online at altrusagigharbor.org/painted-violins-main. Three of the instruments will be live auctioned at an the first annual fundraising Summer Gala held by the Peninsula Youth Orchestra at 6 p.m. June 30 at the Harbor History Museum. Tickets are available online at harborpyo.org.

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

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