Topics: Awards, College of Communication Information and Media, College of Fine Arts

August 28, 2014

Fourteen artists have contributed hand-painted violins to be auctioned off benefiting Emens Auditorium, including local artists (left to right), Tom Howard, Patricia Kreigh and Nate Harmon
Fourteen artists have contributed hand-painted violins to be auctioned off benefiting Emens Auditorium, including local artists (left to right), Tom Howard, Patricia Kreigh and Nate Harmon

A yearlong celebration of Emens Auditorium's 50th anniversary season will draw to a close with a Sept. 27 dinner on the Emens stage along with a silent auction featuring violins hand painted by 14 artists.

"We've had some wonderful guest artists who've joined us for performances at Emens over the past year, helping us commemorate this milestone anniversary," said Charles Sursa, who chaired the Emens 50th anniversary steering committee. "Now, with this dinner and auction, we look forward to bringing our celebration to a close with these exciting culminating events."

Emens' rich history has been on display throughout the anniversary season, from playbills of past Broadway shows and big-name musicians gracing the venue's main lobby to a website,, created to share historical photos of Emens' construction and grand opening along with photos of past acts and patrons' favorite memories.

To help observe the occasion, the university also commissioned Julie Borden, a nationally recognized instrument modifier, to paint a violin that has featured prominently in the promotion of the anniversary season. Director Bob Myers said this hand painted violin — along with those crafted for the auction — exemplifies the diversity of performances at Emens over the past five decades. "We see Julie's violin, with its bright mix of colors, as symbolic of what we do here, which is provide the community with an array of live cultural experiences that match the varied preferences of our patrons."

Artists contributing violins for the auction represent Ball State faculty, students, alumni and friends of the university. They are Susie Burns, Cassandra Copenhaver, John Fillwalk, Jennifer Halvorson, Nate Harmon, Tom Howard, Annette Johnson, Patricia Kreigh, Alfredo Marin, Jean McCauley, Pat Nelson, Aurora Robson, Lynette Whitesell and the late Bette Graham.

Designs of the violins run the gamut of the artists' imagination, from Nelson's metal bug to Howard's Garfield-inspired piece to Halvorson's 18-pound violin, made entirely of glass. Fillwalk and a team of students from Ball State's Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts (IDIA) Lab submitted a violin created by a 3-D printer. "We took the violin Emens gave us, laser scanned it, then turned it into a model we replicated," he explained. "We thought it would be a great way to showcase the kind of work we're doing in our digital lab."

Fillwalk's violin is playable, with custom electronics built in highlighting his expertise as an electronics artist. Sensors in the violin play music when it is turned on and approached, featuring a concerto piece performed by a Ball State music student and recorded in the IDIA Lab.

Tickets for the dinner are $75 per person. The event is open to the public but limited seating is available; to inquire, contact Breanne Talbott. Bidding for the violins will start Sept. 1 through an online auction site, Visitors to the site must enter their mobile phone numbers and payment information to bid via their phone.

The violins will be displayed at the dinner, during which proceeds from the auction will be announced. The auction is part of a university-sponsored fundraising effort to pay for future renovations of the entertainment venue. Proposed work includes an expanded lobby and restrooms on the main floor along with more convenient box office access with additional queue space. A covered, curbside canopy on the circle drive in front of Emens would further efforts to provide a more audience-friendly architectural environment.