New downtown art encourages interaction

New downtown art encourages interaction

ABINGDON, Va. - A couple of the more popular destinations for photo ops in Bristol is either at the guitar beside the Chamber of Commerce building or the old Grand Guitar located out along interstate.

Well, those places are going to get some real competition at the end of July -- a new sculpture is designed for pictures and it even has a place just for you.

It's been a nine-month labor of love in the studio of Val Lyle at the William King Museum. She's been taking an idea that actually came from a trip to eastern Europe and bringing it to life. "They have interactive public sculptures all over the city, and there were throngs of tourists from all over the world lined up waiting to have their picture taken with the sculpture. And I came home and I said, 'That's what we need here,'" Mary Jane Miller with Bristol's Art in Public Places says.

And soon, that idea will be solid bronze and on display in Cumberland Square Park across from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

But getting there took some time. "We did about 20-25 drawings. We tried one figure, two figures, three figures. Tried this instrument, tried that instrument, tried a whole bunch of instruments," sculptor Val Lyle told us.

Until the final one was chosen. It's just a guitar player and a fiddle player with a microphone and a place for you on stage. The artist took care in making the sculpture and the instruments as close to real as possible, plus some surprises. "I have hidden things all over this sculpture and for musicians in particular. They're going to have several little pieces of eye candy and treats.The guitar player is wearing a Nick Jordon thumbpick, which is vintage 1950s," she said.

And something that over the summer has become extra special. "A Jim Shelton guitar strap. I hired him to make one that said 'AIPP' for Art In Public Places. It will be cast in bronze on the guitar player. Of course you know we lost Jim here recently," Lyle says.

It will certainly be something to look at, but that's not what the sculpture is designed for. "The fellow is playing guitar, there's a microphone in the middle, there a gal playing the fiddle and there's a space in the middle for you," Lyle said. So you're invited to come take the stage.

The public unveiling is set for July 31 at 11 a.m., with live music kicking off at 10.

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