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Public art project to feature fiddles

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By SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff
It’s not every month someone brings a giant fiddle to a Galax City Council meeting.
“If you think this is large, you should see a full-sized fiddle. This one is only a three-quarter [size]!” laughed Chris Shackelford of Chestnut Creek School of the Arts, as she carefully leaned the sleek instrument against a nearby column where the council members could get a full view.
Shackelford was there at the Jan. 28 meeting to help sing the praises of a musical-themed public art project.
City grants administrator and Galax Public Art Committee representative Brenda Marrah brought a proposal to council, seeking grant funding for two public art projects, including a student art contest.
One project would take time, but could create a tourist attraction unique to the city.
“We wanted to create a signatory place mark for Galax, and we came up with the idea for fiberglass renditions of a bass fiddle,” Marrah said. “We want to purchase a dozen of them for public sites throughout the city, and put out a call for artists to embellish them.”

After judging the entries, the winning artists would be given a stipend to create a unique design for their fiddle.
Working with the city’s tourism office, these sites would be used as an advertisement for the city. “Little plaques on each statue would have a name and rubbing that visitors could collect in a book, and bring back to the tourism office. When they have visited all 12, they would get a token from the tourism office, like a mug or some other item,” Marrah said.
Each statue would be an art piece, and they would not only would represent a history of local art, but going around the city to see them all also would introduce Galax to visitors and lead them to visit several other businesses.
When budgeting for this project, Marrah said most of the money would go towards purchasing the fiddles. “With delivery, we estimate that the fiddles would cost $14,000 out of the $15,000 budgeted for this project,” she said.
To give the council a better visual, Marrah added that the fiddles for the displays would be full-sized. “Chris brought a three-quarter fiddle to the presentation,” Marrah gestured to the instrument still sturdily propped against the column. “The real ones will be bigger than that.”
To anchor the displays, Marrah suggested that physics students be allowed to work on the mounting.
With several more project ideas in their arsenal, Marrah explained they wanted to start small with the idea of the trademark, then build from there. “We want to create something good, something that cannot be outsourced,” she said.
“As a start to public art, I think you are right to do what you can do,” Mayor C.M. Mitchell said with a smile of approval. “At some point in the public art discussion, furniture has been an incredible piece of history in Galax and the region. This could be something to think about in some manner to keep that history visible.”
“Would each display be different, or all basically the same thing?” asked Council Member Margo Crouse, who stated beforehand that she also approved the idea.
“We would want to use a number of different mediums,” answered Marrah.
Shackelford spoke from her seat: “The call for art that we plan to put out would invite people in the community and region to submit ideas on how to decorate these fiddles. The public could then come and look at the interpretations that people have.”
“We could market this as The Bass Fiddles of Galax,” added Kohl. “As we add in the future, whatever pieces there may be, this would give us a great start and something we could actively market. I’m looking for the opportunity to sell Galax.”
Vice Mayor Willie Greene could already picture it. “I see people standing on the corner of Main Street, lined up to take pictures. I could see this happening.”
Evidently, so could the rest of the council. Unanimously, they approved Marrah’s proposal to seek grant funding.
The other proposal was for a public school student art competition with various categories. “We would need money to frame winning art, and to build pedestals for pottery displays,” she explained. “We hope to display [the artwork] in public buildings throughout the city.”
If granted, Marrah noted that she would like this project to begin almost immediately.  
Members of the Galax Public Art Committee met Feb. 7 to discuss further planning of the two projects.
For the art competition, a timeline was agreed upon for the entries. Artwork submissions will be accepted at CCSA until April 15. The submissions will be split into three categories: high school, middle school and elementary school.
An open house will be held at CCSA on April 20. Members of the community will be invited to come and view all of the entries and begin making their selections. Public voting will remain open until May 4.
Maroon ribbons will be place on the people’s choices for the top five pieces in each category.
Selected works will be prepared for viewing. Plans for where the winning pieces will be displayed have not yet been finalized
Moving forward with the city’s permission, Marrah will prepare a grant proposal to the Virginia Commission of the Arts for the art projects.
To strengthen the application, the committee has requested that local citizens send letters of support to include with the grant application. Letters should be hand-written and submitted before Feb. 27. “They should consider and include the benefits and impact of public art on the community,” Marrah said.
Letters in support of the grant can be sent to Marrah at 111 East Main Street, Galax, VA 24333.