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Artists transform instruments into works of art for benefit

A fundraising idea that Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra employed with some success five years ago is being dusted off and reintroduced in a new and improved format.

It was simply "Instruments Transformed" back then. Now it's being called "Instruments Transformed II," and the kickoff will be a "Big Band Night" in keeping with its jazzier approach.

This is actually two fundraisers in one, according to Patty Neuwirth, executive director of the Lawton Philharmonic. Tickets are on sale for the "Big Band Night" to be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn, 135 NW 2nd. Part two will be a three-week online auction at the Philharmonic's website.

Tickets to "Big Band Night" are $40 per person or $400 for a sponsor table seating eight. You may purchase your tickets at

Quite a few things come with admission: heavy hors d'oeuvres, access to a cash bar, big band music by a 16-piece dance band made up of local musicians, Albert Rivas emceeing, and singing, dancing, a reveal of the goodies in fundraiser No. 2, and a chance to meet the local artists who created some of the artworks.

That's where the "Instruments Transformed" part comes in. For this, David Jackson of Phillips Music Co. donated 15 musically challenged instruments and two old drumheads to the cause. They may well be beyond repair, it is true, but that doesn't mean they can't take on a useful second life as found art.

Fifteen artists accepted the challenge of transforming the damaged goods into visions of loveliness. Nine of them are well-known local and area artists who were secured with the help of the Lawton-Fort Sill Art Council. Council member Robert Peterson of Lawton recruited five of his artist friends in other parts of the country to lend their talents to the cause.

One professional artist, Brenda Shehan, is from Independence, Mo., but she has local connections. She's the daughter of Mollie Burton, a former president of the Lawton Philharmonic, and sister of Bonnie Burton. Since there were more musical artifacts than artists, Shehan took on the responsibility of turning three of them into artworks  a guitar, a cornet and an 18-inch drumhead.

Now that she's retired, transforming musical instruments into works of art is all she does in a business she calls Designs Whimsical. She has two grandsons, and the younger one is very musical. The older one is very artistic and now attends the Art Institute, but he always had an affinity for music, too.

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