BOONE — Thanks to a group of talented High Country artists, a collection of well-loved instruments have found new life as vibrant works of art in Boone.

The project, titled “Art Instrumental,” was made possible by a collaboration between the Watauga Arts Council, Jones House Cultural and Community Center and the Downtown Boone Development Association.

Earlier in the year, the three organizations put out a call for local artists who would be interested in transforming a collection of used, worn-out instruments — many of which were left over from the local Junior Appalachian Musicians Program — into pieces of public art.

“This was such a fun collaborative project. We underestimated how many artists would want to participate,” said Amber Bateman, director of the Watauga Arts Council. “We are definitely thinking it will be an annual project.”

Twenty-three instruments ranging from banjo’s and guitars to french horns were reimagined through the unique lens of each artist. Currently, the artwork is set up in various spaces around downtown Boone. Individuals looking to catch a glimpse of the artwork can pick up a scavenger hunt worksheet at the Watauga Arts Council, Jones House Cultural and Community Center, Watauga County Public Library or Boone Town Hall. The worksheet will provide distinctive clues to the location of each piece of art. Those who complete the scavenger hunt will receive a small prize for their participation.

Those interested in the scavenger hunt can also download the worksheet online via the art council’s website, www.watauga-arts.org/store/c10/2021_Instrument_Challenge.html#/.

“To me, it’s just really exciting to see the reimagined, second life of these instruments. It’s really fun. But mostly, I love all the collaboration,” said Mark Freed, cultural resources director for the town of Boone. “It’s pulling together the town, the arts council, the Downtown Boone Development Association, and also all of these artists in our community that took time to participate in the project and people over the years who have donated the instruments and contributed to the music lessons here. It will all circle back to continue to support art in downtown.”

The artwork will remain on display in downtown Boone until late September, when it will then be sold in a silent auction, following a public exhibition where guests will have a chance to see all of the instruments at once. Proceeds raised during the auction will be used for future art projects in downtown Watauga County. Folks can also donate $1 for the opportunity to vote for their favorite musical art piece on the art council’s website.

“We’ve already raised over $500 for our public arts fund just from people voting for their favorites,” Bateman said. “Every vote equals a vote for public arts. All the people who vote will be notified of our silent auction when it begins. Right now we are shooting for Sept. 25 for it.”

With summer fading fast, visitors to Boone are encouraged to swing by the various shops in town to see “Art Instrumental” for themselves before the artwork is removed for auction.

“We hope residents and visitors alike will take the time to visit downtown Boone to see these instruments in person. Pictures don’t do them justice,” Bateman said.

For more information, visit the Watauga Arts Council’s webpage at www.watauga-arts.org/#/ or call (828) 264-1789. More information about the Jones House Cultural and Community Center can be found at www.joneshouse.org/ or by calling (828) 268-6280.

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