Waukesha STEM Academy enjoys using skills to decorate guitar for GuitarTown project

Christopher Kuhagen
Dailey Albino (left), a seventh grader at Waukesha STEM Academy’s Saratoga Campus, and Anna Gill, an eighth grader at the school, work on one of the 10-foot tall fiberglass sculpture guitars for the Waukesha GuitarTown project last Friday.
Published on: 5/15/2013

Kayla Walker summed up the concept of the STEM Academy's Gibson Les Paul 10-foot guitar for the Waukesha GuitarTown project in perfect terms.

"We wanted to indirectly put STEM on the guitar," the seventh-grader at the Saratoga Campus said last week as her large "canvas" sat in front of her. "It really represents our school."

After a look at their concept and knowing the STEM cirriculum, which specializes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, it appears they accomplished this feat.

Walker and her classmates are displaying these philosophies in all facets of the guitar. They are primarily utilizing electric wire into their design as well as attaching sprocket wheels and pieces of the insides of a computer harddrive box tower.

"I think (the community) is going to like it because it's different with the whole wire concept," Walker said. "It's not just paint."

And since STEM is a project-based school, their guitar is dedicated to the inventors by depicting Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian artist, mathematician, engineer, architect and inventor; Benjamin Franklin and his discoveries of electricity; and Isaac Newton, a famous English physicist and mathematician, who was a key fixture in the scientific revolution.

Waukesha GuitarTown is a community art project done in honor of the late Les Paul, who was born and is buried in Waukesha. With Paul being an inventor, himself, it fits perfectly into the concept.

"The theme was inventions and inventors, so we merged them all together over the years," said Darci VanAdestine, a STEM Inc. art teacher, who is leading the project with the students.

She said incorporating electric wire into their guitar was inspired by artist Federico Uribe, who uses reclaimed electrical cables to create his paintings. The project involved research, drawing a draft, outlining it on the oversized guitar and then painting it and laying down all the pieces that will be added to this piece of artwork.

VanAdestine said Walker, along with eighth-grader Anna Gill and seventh-grader Dailey Albino are the main student artists. Other students and staff members were involved in the process as well, such as many seventh-graders who took apart the old computer box towers.

"I like working with people because all of this was everyone's idea and so they all came together," Albino said when asked what she enjoys about the project while adding, "it's really fun because it's hands-on."

VanAdestine said STEM administrators are thrilled to be part of the project, which she said was presented to them by Mayor Jeff Scrima, who worked with Gibson Corp. to bring GuitarTown back to Waukesha for Phase II.

In addition to students like Walker, Gill and Albino, the Waukesha GuitarTown project this year is involving students across the district and at the collegiate level.

There are student teams designing 10-foot guitars from Carroll University, Waukesha West and North high schools, Central Middle School and a youth team from La Casa de Esperanza. Regular-sized guitars were being designed by a team from Butler Middle School and La Casa de Esperanza.

The guitars were to be finished this week so they could be clear-coated at Marshall Auto Body Collision Repair in Waukesha and be ready for the GuitarTown festivities at the beginning of next month.

There will be a gala to show off the guitars before they are placed in their outdoor location as part of a walking tour in Waukesha.

Gill saw last year's guitars outside downtown businesses, and when the idea came to her school she was intrigued.

"I thought it was pretty cool because I had seen the guitars downtown last year and at first I really didn't know what we were going to do with it and then I just wanted to be a part of it," Gill said. "So I'm excited to see it all come together and it's nice to be a part of something that people will remember."

Joining this select group of artists and cities that has a GuitarTown (only seven other cities in the world are labeled Gibson GuitarTowns by Gibson Corp.), isn’t lost on the young Walker, either.

“I think it’s really cool that we could be part of something that’s going to be in Waukesha for a really long time,” Walker said. “It’s cool to leave a legacy.”