Shops display violin artwork

As the Elm City enjoys warmer weather, 43 decorative violins have joined daffodils and crocuses in ushering spring to the streets of New Haven.

The instruments, installed in the first week of March, comprise the New Haven Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural Art Violin Project. Part exhibition and part fundraiser, the initiative seeks to build ties with the local business community and engage New Haven residents with public art. The display will culminate in an auction on April 13 at limbo, at which buyers will be able to bid on any of the pieces. All profits received from the sale of the violins will go to the NHSO.

A decorated violin graces the window of Hull’s on Chapel St. 43 deconstructed violins are currently on display in New Haven storefronts.
Jonathan Jimenez
A decorated violin graces the window of Hull’s on Chapel St. 43 deconstructed violins are currently on display in New Haven storefronts.

NHSO representative Mary-Kate Pomian said the public response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive.

“People have enjoyed it,” she said. “They like to follow the violins throughout New Haven, and get kind of connected. The storefronts donating their space have been a huge help.”

Previous “public art” projects in other cities have included displays of decorated fiberglass cows.

Idiom, a boutique on Chapel Street, displays Laura Nellums’s “Luce dalla Finestra” in its front window. Sales clerk Ian Cassell said the painting has generated interest among customers.

“It’s inspired a lot of questions about the program,” he said. “A lot of people have asked whether you could actually play it.”

Pomian said the majority of the violins were provided by the Orchestra, and 14 were donated by New Haven residents. Margaret Dean, whose violin features a vine motif, said the instrument she painted was donated by the family of a former player in the Orchestra.

“That touched me a great deal,” she said in an e-mail. “I have dedicated the ‘Vineyard Violin’ to him.”

In New York-based artist Guido Garaycochea’s piece “Bridge,” a jarring cat’s cradle of string connects the bow to the intricately painted body of the violin to form a link between disparate elements.

“It was hard for me when I got a new violin and had to destroy parts of it,” Garaycochea said. “It was a complete challenge, but I did my best.”

The South American-born Garaycochea emphasized the historical importance of gold as a material in his work.

“Gold has a real meaning for me,” he said. “There’s a tension between the divine and the ambitious. I always put a little gold in all my pieces.”

Tao LoBossiere, who participated in a similar program with the West Hartford Symphony, opted for a more whimsical approach in his “Peacockolin.”

“It’s about the fact that the violin sings,” he said. “I wanted to make it a zoomorphic hybrid of violin and musical instrument. It’s a kind of fanciful interpretation, musical in itself.”

To recruit participants, the orchestra sent out a call to artists in Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.

At the auction, a panel of judges will award a $1,000 prize to an artist in each of three categories: design, decoration and deconstruction. A People’s Choice prize will also be awarded based on ballots cast by the public at the various locations where the violins are displayed.

Exhibition designer and interior stylist Maria Freda, who will serve as part of the panel, said the judges will use a variety of criteria to select the winners.

“We’re going to look for a creative use of materials, the creative aspect of interpretation, and how far they took the project,” she said. “They’re going to be judged on the creative process, as well as the time and skill put into them.”

The auction will take place at limbo on April 15 at 5:30. The space will be open on both April 11 and April 12 from noon to 8 p.m. for previews.

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