Fort Mill artist gives ‘dead’ instruments new life

Special to the Fort Mill TimesMay 10, 2014 

— When Julie Howren, business administrator for Howren Music Co., came across a pin on Pinterest about painting old instruments, it gave her an idea.

“I realized we had a basement full of dead or unplayable inventory downstairs gathering dust, and I just might be able to turn it into something interesting for our display windows,” Howren said.

Although she thought it was a longshot, Howren decided to post a message on Facebook asking an artist to volunteer to paint some of their old instruments for the window display at the Park Road store.

Much to her surprise, Howren received eight responses. One was about Zoie Hale, a 16 year old from Fort Mill.

“My friend who follows me on Facebook texted me that she had the perfect person for the job,” said Howren. “She told me about Zoie and how she had painted two murals in schools and how sweet she was.”

So Howren’s friend put her in contact with Hale, who happily agreed to help with the project.

The instruments Hale painted were from the hundreds of “dead” instruments housed at the repair shop inside the store.

“They are sometimes used for parts for the repair shop, but usually they are just sitting there, broken and unloved,” Howren said.

In addition to giving the instruments new life, the artwork would solve another problem for Howren: what to do with her display windows.

“I have always wanted to jazz up our display windows, but we cannot put functioning instruments in the window due to the direct sunlight and heat and humidity,” she said.

Hale painted 12 instruments for the store, including violins, cellos, saxophones, a French horn, a trumpet and even a tuba. The only direction she had from Howren was to give them a whimsical, “Dr. Seuss-like” look.

“They were exactly what we were looking for,” said Howren.

Hale said she liked painting the stringed instruments the best and said her favorite piece was a cello she painted solid red on one half with piano keys on the other.

“To me, this project was a great experience,” said Hale. “It was something I’ve never done before.”

Howren said she is happy with the results as well and that there has been a dramatic upswing in the number of people stopping to look at their display windows since she added Hale’s work. The store even has received inquiries about purchasing the painted instruments, though they currently are not for sale.

“Zoie is a talented, beautiful, delightful young lady, and we feel blessed to have had her share her talent with us,” Howren said.

“We are very grateful for her willingness to help us and for the fantastic job she did with every instrument we gave her. I know Zoie will go far in the future, and we will be here saying we knew her when.”

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