The Painted Violin Project

The Bellingham Festival of Music will celebrate its 25 years of bringing classical music to Whatcom County residents and visitors by merging two of the area’s most beloved segments, music and art, into The Painted Violin Project. Debuting January 20, 2018 at the sold out Pablo Villegas Concert, the violins will also be on exhibit at the WWU Performing Arts Center, the Jansen Art Center, the Lightcatcher Museum and the Allied Art’s Gallery during the months of February and March. The tour will culminate at the Festival’s 25th Silver Anniversary, “A Classical Love Story” Auction on April 7, 2018, where these beautiful works of art will be auctioned during the “A Classical Love Story” evening.

The project was inspired by the essential role the violin plays in the symphony orchestra, with its evocative nature and range of tones. Helping to bring this project to life were luthier G.B. Hembree who donated the violins, and two exceptional local artists, Joy Olney and Maren Larson. Widely recognized for their artistic talents, these fine artists have adorned and otherwise transformed these violins into singular works of art.

HOW TO BID: These beautiful violins will be auctioned at the BFM’s Annual Benefit Dinner and Auction on April 7, 2018 at the Bellingham Golf and Country Club. All guests attending the Festival’s auction gala will have the opportunity to bid on the violins. If unable to attend and you wish to bid on the violins, please contact BFM Auction Chair Sally Chapman to arrange your Proxy Bid (360) 739-6189.


Joy Olney

whose violin is titled “Music Inspires Art,” while a full-time student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts studied with notable artists there and was trained in an academic direct painting approach by instructors who had studied under Charles Hawthorne and Henry Hensche of the Cape Cod School. Her work has been shown in many galleries, including in the states of New York, California, and Washington. Joy has also shown in national and international juried exhibitions where she has won prestigious awards in recognition of her artistic excellence, including Best in Show at Scott Milo Gallery in June 2017, juried by Lois Griffel.

“I was honored to be one of the artists asked to paint on the violin. The concept was to combine the art of music with the love of the arts in a way to celebrate the Festival’s Silver Anniversary. I chose ballet dancers to incorporate my love of dance, music and the visual arts. On the back of the violin I painted the young dancer aspiring to be like the Prima Ballerina on the front of the violin. Mastering the Arts takes years of dedication and practice, with the best tools and instruction. The ballet slippers are one of the key tools for the dancers.”

Maren Larson

whose violin is titled “Opening Night,” studied painting at the University of Minnesota, Western Washington University, and workshops in Taos, New Mexico. As a mixed media artist, Maren’s art has been shown in numerous group shows at local and regional venues over the past 25 years. Maren has also been honored with solo shows in Bellingham, Washington, Moorhead, Minnesota, and Portland, Oregon. 


“My work is about experimentation and creating unification of various methods and media. Each piece evolves intuitively. Layers evoke a sense of time, mystery and history. Musical scores are a common component of my collages. The music on the sides of the violin is the actual solo part of Korngold’s Violin Concerto that will be performed by Stefan Jackiw opening night of the Festival’s Silver Anniversary season. The music on the front and back of the violin is also from the Korngold Violin Concerto except for a small piece of green painted music in the middle of the back. This came from my collection of music and paper scraps and was the perfect green I wanted. The fabric on the violin is hand-blocked linen from India that has been in my family since childhood.”

*Violin Exhibits: The Festival is privileged to showcase these talented artists’ beautiful violins on the following dates and locations:

Pablo Villegas Concert Ciao Thyme (Sold Out)

Intersection Trio Concert, WWU

Jansen Art Center

Allied Arts of Whatcom County

Lightcatcher Museum

January 20

February 8

February 10-17

March 2-30

March 21-23

Pablo Villegas Concert Ciao Thyme (Sold Out)»January 20
Intersection Trio Concert, WWU»February 8
Jansen Art Center»February 10-17
Allied Arts of Whatcom County»March 2-30
Lightcatcher Museum

These violins are displayed and auctioned as works of art and not as instruments to be played. Playing the violins could result in damage to the art.