Watauga Arts Council

Old instruments donated to the Watauga Arts Council will be transformed into a public arts installation in Boone.

A new collaborative art project spearheaded by the Watauga Arts Council, Jones House Cultural and Community Center and the Downtown Boone Development Association will soon bring new purpose to the community’s retired musical instruments.

Using a stockpile of well-loved, yet unplayable instruments from the Jones House as their canvas, local artists will reimagine and transform them into a public art installation. The new project is intended to spark interest in the community arts scene and fund new public art projects, while also shining light on local businesses.

“The Junior Appalachian Musician Program, which started with the Watauga Arts Council, has over the years amassed a lot of instruments. Some which have taken quite a bit of abuse and use over the years, which is great, we love to see them being used in that way,” said Mark Freed, the town of Boone’s Cultural Resource Director. “When this conversation happened with the Watauga Arts Council and the DBDA we thought that this would be a really cool opportunity to repurpose these old instruments, bring attention to downtown, bring more public art to downtown, raise some money for a good cause and get artists to think creatively with these old instruments.”

Amber Bateman, director of the Watauga Arts Council, said The Jones House is a hub for culture and community in the area.

“The JAM program that they run out of it is so ingrained into who we are with their traditional Appalachian music,” Bateman said. “ It’s really good to bring people back to our roots and let them know that we go much deeper than just a university town.”

Similar to a scavenger hunt, once repurposed into art the instruments will then be displayed at various businesses around downtown Boone. As of now, the artwork is anticipated to be on display by Doc Watson Day on June, 18, 2021 and will remain on display throughout the summer. Following their exhibition, the reimagined instruments will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the Watauga Arts Council’s new public arts fund.

“The Watauga County Arts Council is starting a public arts fund and that fund is going to be started with the money from this first public art installation. Then the money from that fund will be used to supplement public art innovatives,” said Bateman. “We will use it to help jumpstart mural projects downtown, or if we want artwork out in the community — I’m really looking at the greenway as a place for some of that — we can use money from that, for that purpose.”

“I think it will be fun for people to come downtown. I hope that they take away a sense of how music is really an intrical part of the cultural scene and vibrancy of downtown Boone and of Watauga County,” said Freed. “This is another way, especially during times of COVID-19, to bring attention to our musical heritage and traditions and highlight those things in our town.”

In addition to the instruments received from the Jones House, the Watauga Arts Council has also received six guitars from Kudzu Music, and is currently looking to fill artists request for a tambourine, banjos, horn instruments for the metal workers, (pianos whole or in parts) and other instruments.

The Watauga Arts Council is also inviting artists to participate in this new public arts project. For more information, visit the Watauga Arts Council’s webpage at www.watauga-arts.org/#/ or call (828) 264-1789. For more information about the Jones House Cultural and Community Center, visit www.joneshouse.org/ or call (828) 268-6280.

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