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8 Artists, 3 Guitars, 1 Legend

By Jennifer Hutton-Rampolla

After school, during their lunch hours, and even on the weekend, eight dedicated students and one inspirational art teacher from Butler Middle School worked on transferring their individualized artistic visions onto three legendary Les Paul Gibson guitars.

Butler Middle School teacher and students working on guitar

Art Teacher Mrs. Michelle Anderson (with students Sarah Koehler and Rachel Ward) offering ideas and inspiration for Butler Middle School students as they add the finishing touches to their Waukesha GuitarTown playable guitar.
(Photo: Jennifer Hutton-Rampolla / EagleEyesNaturePhotography.com)

While some groups in the area are working on large 10-foot guitars, Mrs. Michelle Anderson explained that for the evolution of this “big undertaking,” she “chose to get the smaller [guitars] because the kids [she] was thinking about” for this project had significantly different perspectives regarding their artist vision.  Ultimately, the girls, all current or former students in Mrs. Anderson’s art classes, created three unique final products.

When Waukesha unveils the guitars painted by both students and professionals alike, it will be difficult to discern which pieces were created by which artists.  Each of these three student-created guitars reflected the individual student artists, and the guitars evolved as the students brought their concepts from their heads to their final products.  To further understand the scope of this year’s GuitarTown project, each of the artists spent some of her final after school work time sharing both her inspiration for their theme and her perspective regarding their process.


“Starry Night”

Butler Middle School Students Kota Tuft and Cassondra Pockat

Butler Middle School students Cassondra Pockat and Kota Tuft display the front of their finished guitar for the Waukesha GuitarTown event. (Photo: Jennifer Hutton-Rampolla / EagleEyesNaturePhotography.com)

Kota Tuft and Cassondra Pockat worked on creating a guitar based on Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

Cassondra summarized their inspiration by explaining that “it dawned on us [that] a guitar, starry night themed . . . would be cool!”

Kota elaborated on Cassondra’s statement by explaining where their inspiration originated.  Kota shared that both she and Cassondra “love the show Dr. Who.”  They “were watching one of the episodes ‘Vincent and the Doctor,’ and it featured Vincent Van Gogh and some of his work.”  Kota explained that “it was really emotional because . . . looking at Vincent’s paintings; you could understand some of what he went through.”

Both Kota and Cassondra were excited about not only participating in this project but also working on an iconic guitar.  Kota exclaimed, “I’m painting on a Gibson!”

Cassondra further explained their excitement by sharing that “someone is going to have this in their house, and they are going to be shredding on it and playing all of the classics.”

Even before finishing the question, “What has it meant to you two being part of this project?”  Kota responded, “A lot!”

Cassondra continued, “I feel really honored that we could be part of GuitarTown because we are one of the only cities in the United States that has this opportunity.”


“Live Your Dreams”

Sarah Koehler, Rachel Ward, and Emma McBride focused on the concept of “Live Your Dreams” as they painted their guitar.

Butler Middle School students Emma McBride, Rachel Ward, and Sarah Koehler

Butler Middle School students Emma McBride, Rachel Ward, and Sarah Koehler display the front of their finished guitar for their participation in the Waukesha GuitarTown event. (Photo: Jennifer Hutton-Rampolla / EagleEyesNaturePhotography.com)

Sarah started by sharing the literal elements represented on their guitar.  She explained that there’s the “sky, and a girl [who’s] dreaming.  Her dreams are in the clouds above her.  [There are] three different dreams: one of traveling or vacation, one of first love, and one of friends.”

These three dreams were chosen because, as Rachel explains, they’re “symbolic.”  They selected broad “symbols that a lot of people experience in their lives or goals that they set.”

All three students were excited about participating in the GuitarTown project, and Sarah summarized their feelings by expressing that it “means something that [their guitar] is going to be displayed.”

Furthermore, even though this project took “a lot of dedicated time,” Rachel explained that the impact of their guitar will be a piece of art that will “catch other people’s attention.”  Those people will “think about themselves” much the same way that these artists thought about themselves while painting.

While Sarah and Rachel explained that their theme was both “dreams of the future” and “life,” and many different people could relate to their theme, Emma brought the theme closer to their lives.  Emma proclaimed that these three best friends could relate to the concept of “looking into the future” because “we’re going into high school next year, so it’s good to think about things like that.”


“Nature Meets Industrial”

Butler Middle School students Lily Caldwell, Brittney Warner, and Brie Atwater

Butler Middle School students Lily Caldwell, Brittney Warner, and Brie Atwater display the front of their finished guitar for their participation in the Waukesha GuitarTown event.
(Photo: Jennifer Hutton-Rampolla / EagleEyesNaturePhotography.com)

Brittney Warner, Lily Caldwell, and Brie Atwater shared that their guitar had a steampunk focus.

Lily summarized their theme by stating that it was basically “nature meets industrial.”  Lily shared a previous conversation she had with her dad in which they had discussed Waukesha’s early years.  During that conversation, Lily discovered that she “wanted to incorporate steampunk” in her guitar design.  Brittney continued by saying that it was “a lot of fun creating the idea” which Brie said “took a lot of dedication.”

Brittney explained that they had “randomly sketched out some things,” and then their product “evolved” into what became their final painted guitar.  Continuing, Brittney shared that “it happened nothing like our original sketch.”

Brittney, Lily, and Brie finished each other’s sentences and filled in the gaps about the concept of steampunk.  Basically, it’s “modernized vintage” where the artists “take something new and make it look old” and also “take older inventions and make them useful today.”  Additionally, it’s a “mixture of things” that uses “a lot of bronze and gears.”

Brittney discussed how “Mrs. Anderson brought in the metallic paints” which helped make the piece “more vibrant” according to Brie.  Lily continued by saying that “Waukesha has a lot of beautiful nature,” which combined well with Brittney’s ability to “draw very swirly viney things.”

Overall, their guitar was a combined effort in both the work and the explanation of the final product.  Brittney’s statement best summarizes their end result when she said, “It just worked.”

Now that the students have finished painting the guitars, they have been sent back to Gibson Guitar Corporation to have the hardware installed; making them playable artist guitars.

The guitars will be revealed for the first time at the Waukesha GuitarTown Gala on June 6.  Then, these guitars will be available for public viewing at the GuitarTown and Waukesha Freeman Friday Night kickoff event on June 7.