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Richfield artist strikes a chord in GuitarMania

10/4/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Sandra Pribish Varrone, of Richfield, is shown with the 10-foot-tall guitar she painted as part of the GuitarMania fundraising event for the United Way of Greater Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Photo courtesy of Sandra Pribish Varrone
RICHFIELD — Local artist Sandra Pribish Varrone typically paints on canvas or slate, but not for one of her latest projects.

Varrone is one of 60 artists who put their touch on oversized guitars to participate in this year’s GuitarMania fundraiser for the United Way of Greater Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s education programs.

The Richfield resident, a Hinckley native, said she has always been an artist and comes from a family of artists. She has been active at the Brecksville Center for the Arts, where she heard about GuitarMania, and she decided to submit design proposals to be selected as an artist. She created three: a lighthouse, a scene of East Fourth Street and one representing the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland.

The latter is a subject near to her heart, she said.

“I go every other Wednesday and cook with a group of lovely ladies,” she said. “There are 10 women. A good friend of mine started it and asked me to go a few times. My sister died in 2005, and I started two weeks after that. It was something she had talked about doing.”

It was the Ronald McDonald House design that was picked by Family Heritage Life Insurance, which sponsored the guitar she worked on, for its entry into the art event. Varrone titled the work “House of Healing Rocks.”

Varrone said she was selected for the project in March, and she and her husband, Steve, went to Cleveland to pick up the guitar — which was a 10-foot-tall, 100-pound fiberglass Fender Stratocaster. The size made for quite a challenge, she said.

“With it being 10 feet tall, even with a ladder it was tough to get to the top,” she said. “The other challenge was the actual guitar, where they put strings, because there were a lot of grooves and three-dimensional surfaces that you had to paint over, like knobs and indentations.”

After turning in the guitar, a protective coat was applied so it could withstand the elements. Varrone’s guitar was then placed at the intersection of East Ninth Street and Prospect Avenue, where it was displayed all summer.

Artists from around the region were involved in the effort, as well as a few big names, such as Jon Bon Jovi, Yoko Ono and Ron Wood. Varrone had the chance to see all the guitars during a special event at the Rock Hall.

“It was really interesting to see how varied and different each one was,” she said. “Everyone has their own style and subject matter.”

Now the guitars are on display at the Rock Hall, where they will be auctioned off at an event Oct. 20.

According to United Way officials, this year’s event is the fourth GuitarMania. The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with the auction of painted guitars scheduled to start at 8 p.m. For more information, go to www.unitedwaycleveland.org.

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