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Waukesha GuitarTown will be back next year

Mayor, Gibson executives agreed to Phase II when they met last week in Nashville

Oct. 8, 2012

GuitarTown is returning to Waukesha.

Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima said Monday afternoon that after meeting with Gibson Guitar Corporation’s CEO Henry Juszkiewicz and President David Berryman last Friday in Nashville, Tenn., there will be a Phase II of the project.

“Phase II of the project will amplify Waukesha’s identity as the birth and resting place of Les Paul and continue to move our community forward as a small town incubator for musicians, artists and entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams,” Scrima said.

Waukesha joined cities such as Austin, Texas, Nashville, Orlando, Fla., Cleveland, Hollywood, Calif., Miami and London last year when it was named a GuitarTown by Gibson Corporation.

But Scrima said only the Sunset Strip in Hollywood has had more than one phase of GuitarTown.

So how did this happen again?

Scrima said he and Gibson’s top officials have had conversations since Waukesha’s kickoff in June. And when he went to Nashville last week, Gibson gave him the go-ahead to bring back GuitarTown to Waukesha.

“They had a good experience back in June when they were here,” Scrima said referring to the GuitarTown kickoff that included the unveiling of the 10-foot Gibson Les Paul fiberglass guitars and regular-sized guitars that were designed by local artists. “And we stayed in contact through their foundation director and when I visited them we said this is perhaps something we could do again.”

Like Phase I, Scrima said the new series will include a new round of 10-foot guitars and regular-sized guitars.

Phase I of GuitarTown had 10, 10-foot fiberglass guitars and 20 regular-sized playable guitars that reside outside and inside various downtown businesses.

Scrima said since it was just agreed upon last week, he isn’t sure yet how many guitars will be designed by local artists this time. But he said the concept will be the same and he will look to have new artists and sponsors for 2013.

He did, however, add that he wants Phase II to expand past just downtown Waukesha.

“Gibson has given us the flexibility to be creative and augment this national and public art and music project,” Scrima said, “while at the same time to make it even better than the first time.”

In its first year, the project raised $105,000 for three local charities: $45,000 to the Waukesha Public School District for new musical instruments and art supplies; $45,000 to the Les Paul exhibit at the Waukesha County Museum; $15,000 to the Waukesha Memorial Hospital to help fund the new Community Health Clinic.

The mayor said the timeline of the project is still not finalized, but he said he would like to have it be similar to this year when the kickoff event coincided with Les Paul’s birthday and the kickoff of the Friday Night Live concert series at the beginning of June.

This year the 10-foot guitars and the regular-sized guitars were unveiled at a gala at The Rotunda in downtown Waukesha that also featured local and national musicians. Events surrounding the late Les Paul, a famous musician and inventor known as the Wizard of Waukesha who was born and is buried here, were held the next two days in Waukesha.

Scrima said the GuitarTown Steering Committee will resume and include many of the same members. He said more members could also be added as he’s looking for the committee to reach a wider audience.

The mayor said the funds for Phase II will go through Waukesha GuitarTown, Inc., an independent entity that is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt nonprofit organization and has ownership of the sculptures. Phase I, which was planned in just about four months, did raise some initial questions about the project due to a money transaction that went through the now-inactive Waukesha Business Improvement District (11 of its 13-member board and its executive director recently resigned).

“Last year was our first year doing it and we learned a lot through that project,” Scrima said. “We’re starting earlier than we did last year, which will only make the 2013 launch an even better one.”

Keeping the line of communication open, Scrima said Gibson and Waukesha GuitarTown, Inc., will continue to have interaction on the project moving forward.

“It’s a very collaborative effort between us,” Scrima said. “(Gibson) was very pleased with what we did and they were delighted to do this national project in a small town – the first small city for them.

“It’s a natural progression for Waukesha to have a continuation of the project and keeps with the rhythm of our community. It’s an event that brings people together and it really celebrates our history and moves our community forward.”

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