Waukesha GuitarTown returns for third straight year with just students

Published on: 5/30/2014

For the first time last year, students were involved in the Waukesha GuitarTown project.

Now, in the third installment of the community art project that is done in collaboration with Gibson Guitar Corp., students across the city have taken on an even bigger role.

They are painting all of the guitars this year. 

And the project is wrapping up quickly as the 10-foot fiberglass and playable guitars will be turned in this weekend and will be unveiled to the public Friday, June 6, in downtown Waukesha.

The GuitarTown event will once again coincide with the kickoff of Friday Night Live, a weekly summer music concert series in downtown.

The GuitarTown event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a custard social for the student artists and their parents in the grassy lot next to Allô Chocolat, 234 W. Main St. 

A tent and stage area will be set up for a welcome ceremony at 6 p.m.

Music will be provided by the Les Paul Trio, who will be joined by Earl Slick during one of their sets. Music will then follow at nine stages from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Students at the public and private schools in Waukesha painted 30 playable Gibson Les Paul guitars and four 10-foot sculpture guitars.

The three public high schools (North, South and West) as well as the Waukesha Catholic - St. Joseph Campus are designing the 10-foot guitars.

During the summer, Norm Bruce, president of Waukesha Downtown Business Association and a member of the GuitarTown Steering Committee, said the playable guitars will be featured in the front window of the Almont Gallery in downtown Waukesha.

All of the guitars will then be returned in the fall to their respective schools to be on display.

Moreover, as part of the partnership between Gibson, Waukesha GuitarTown Inc. and the Waukesha School District, Waukesha North, South and West high schools will receive 10 guitars each from Gibson for students to use in the guitar classes that are being offered for the first time this fall.

Bruce said he and the Waukesha GuitarTown Steering Committee contacted Gibson last winter and sent them a proposal about doing a GuitarTown project in Waukesha for a third time.

"They were very receptive to that pitch," Bruce said.  

Last year, about 40 guitars were painted, including 15 large guitars that were shipped in from Gibson Guitar Corp. in Nashville, Tennessee. For the second straight year, the guitars were unveiled at a private gala at The Rotunda in downtown Waukesha

In addition, murals - that honored music icon and Waukesha native Les Paul - were added to the second installment of GuitarTown last year. 

Through sponsorships, the project raised $36,000 for community organizations last year. The Food Pantry of Waukesha County, the Waukesha School District and Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County each received $12,000.

In GuitarTown's first year in 2012, the project raised $105,000: $45,000 for the Waukesha School District to purchase new musical instruments and art supplies; $45,000 for the new Les Paul exhibit at the Waukesha County Museum and $15,000 for the Waukesha Memorial Hospital to help fund the new Community Health Clinic.

Waukesha is part of a select group of cities that can be labeled a "GuitarTown" by Gibson. Other cities include Austin (Texas), Nashville, Orlando (Florida), Cleveland, Hollywood (California), Miami and London.

But Waukesha is the only city that has now partnered with Gibson on the project for a third time and is the only one that has involved just students.