Your Regional Guide To The Performing Arts

Preserving History and Music Through Chatfield Project

Preserving History and Music Through Chatfield Project
Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Oconomowoc Arts Center

In an effort to continue promoting the arts for students, Oconomowoc High School and Oconomowoc Arts Center have joined forces for a unique project.


The Chatfield Project will revive a quartet of stringed instruments donated to the school by local luthier Frank Chatfield in 1937. Chatfield was a city planner for Oconomowoc and built and repaired stringed instruments from wood he harvested from trees in the Lac La Belle area. The instruments include two violins, one viola and once cello. As you can imagine, after so many years the instruments were no longer playable and placed in storage.


Instead of letting these instruments continue to collect dust, OHS Principal Joseph Moylan took action and consulted Scott Sleider, an accomplished luthier from Wauwatosa.


“The restoration effort was meant to realize our vision as a school district in honoring our past,” Moylan said. “We wanted the instruments to be around for students to play; that’s why Frank built them for us. They are an amazing gift and tribute to us as a community historically focused on the arts.”


However, restoring these instruments won’t be easy. The estimated cost to restore the instruments is $27,000, requiring several hundred hours of work from Sleider. In order to afford this cost, the OAC has put together a fundraising effort where they will auction off nine stringed instruments that were transformed into beautiful works of art by local and regional artists.


“I reached out to some of my contacts from our visual arts series about using their talents to transform the instruments,” said Michael Duncan, director of the OAC. “I thought this idea for a fundraiser fit well with the concept of the Chatfield Project and the instruments turned out incredible.”


The collection includes a heavy metal painted electric guitar by renowned Waukesha artist, Tom Noll; a cello painted by Wauwatosa artist Tom Smith in the theme of “The Swan,” the famous piece of music featuring a solo cello; and an acoustic guitar creatively wrapped in colorful fabric by Oconomowoc fiber artist Abigail Engstrand.


The auction will open Saturday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. and close Monday, Oct. 23 at 10 p.m. The instruments can be viewed in person in the OAC lobby or online at the bidding site,  A reception with the artists will also take place in the OAC lobby from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, right before the 2017-18 season opening concert of the BritBeat Beatles Tribute concert at 7 p.m.

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