Artist Tom Noll was putting the finishing touches on a 10-foot-tall guitar sculpture last week, a brightly painted montage of a dozen rock and blues musicians, each playing a Gibson Les Paul.
Noll’s work is one of 30 big and small guitars that are the artistic centerpieces of a charitable fundraising effort called the Waukesha Guitar Town Project, in the place where guitar and musical innovator Les Paul was born and is buried.
Noll is an enthusiastic Guitar Town participant, an artist known locally as the rock ‘n’ roll musician painter who sells prints of his oil portraits worldwide. He’s also a Les Paul fan, having painted the Wizard of Waukesha earlier, a painting Paul autographed on one of his trips “home.”
“It was a natural,” Noll said about the guitar project. “What I love about it is it’s going to be public art.”
When he lets his imagination run beyond the strokes of his paintbrush, he pictures himself on his Harley-Davidson riding down Waukesha’s Main St. and seeing his distinctive piece prominently displayed along the street.
Like Noll, nine other artists won commissions to turn oversize fiberglass guitars into public artworks for installation primarily in downtown Waukesha. Their completion deadline is May 15.
Twenty other artists turned in their artistically finished regulation-size Gibson Les Paul guitars last week. They’ll be shipped Monday to the Gibson Guitar Corp., where hardware will be installed. The guitars will then be returned to Waukesha. The Gibson Foundation is behind the GuitarTown concept and a partner in it, having named seven other GuitarTown cities, from London to Los Angeles.
This story was reported by Laurel Walker of the Journal Sentinel.
For many years downtown Waukesha has been host to dozens of outdoor musical shows during the summer as part of the Waukesha Freeman Friday Night Live. Some of the downtown streets are blocked-off and musicians take the stage at various locations around Waukesha, cultivating their passion and soothing the ears of residents who adore the performances of many local bands and musicians.
Earlier this year Mayor Jeff Scrima contacted the Gibson Guitar Corporation and made a request that the city be recognized as “Guitar Town Waukesha,” in light of the fact that it is the hometown and resting place of the late great guitar legend, Les Paul. Gibson agreed, and over the past couple of months the Waukesha Guitar Town Steering Committee has taken steps to quickly move things along. Large and small guitars have been delivered to the city of Waukesha and are currently being decorated by artists. With proposed guitar town locations tentatively established, Gibson has agreed to throw a dedication party for the June 01, 2012 launch of the Waukesha Guitar Town project.
In an article by Sarah Pryor of the Waukesha Freeman, this past week Guitar Town Steering Committee member, Alderman Any Reiland, made an announcement at Thursday’s Common Council meeting that the Rusty Paul Band, the Les Paul Trio, and Sammy Llanas will headline the Waukesha Guitar Town Dedication party.
The musicians will perform during a private evening reception on May 31 at the Rotunda in historic downtown Waukesha where several of the playable Les Paul guitars will be auctioned off in person and online. A public event will be held during Freeman Friday Night Live the evening of June 1 in historic downtown Waukesha.
About the Musicians
The Rusty Paul Band features Les Paul’s son Rusty and perform blues, funk and rock music at a variety of locations and venues.
The Les Paul Trio performs every Monday night at the Iridum, a popular jazz and rock club in New York. The Trio’s music pays homage to the music of Les Paul and often features guests like Ted Nugent, Jeff Beck, Zakk Wylde and Steve Miller.
Sammy Llanas, a Waukesha native and former member of the BoDeans, is known for his distinctive music and is now a solo musician.