Art of the Guitar: A Luthier´s Renaissance

February 26, 2009 - June 7, 2009 Jane L. Stern Gallery, General Exhibition

Art of the Guitar Logo

Art of the Guitar presents and explores handmade guitars by the finest builders of today along with instruments of historic significance.

In the midst of what has been referred to as a “renaissance” of independent luthiers (makers of stringed instruments), today’s acoustic guitarists, connoisseurs, and collectors have realized a new appreciation for the art, craft, and science of guitar building.

For decades, big guitar companies had all but eliminated the relevance of the individual craftsperson in exchange for mass production. Recently, a heightened sense of value for the work of the individual—insight and attention to detail not possible on an assembly line—has resulted in an ever-increasing number of one-person and small shop operations creating guitars now in demand by the most discerning buyers. Using methods and principles steeped in tradition, today’s guitar builders continue to explore the possibilities of sound and design, to address and apply the properties of each material used, and to create instruments that are as unique and personalized as the music they are built to produce.

Among those credited as forerunners of the revival are James Olson and Charles Hoffman of Minnesota and Charles Fox of Oregon. A number of world class luthiers who work in the upper Midwest are represented.

Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Company, Kalamazoo Harp-guitar, 1916, Style U (18-3/4”). Serial number 30907. Factory order number 3125., Arne B. Larson Collection, 1979. National Music Museum, University of South Dakota, Vermillion. Photo by Bill Willroth.

This exhibition is organized by Plains Art Museum. Guest curators are Steve Beckermann and Michael J. Olsen, both of Fargo. Beckermann has a long history with art, music, and education, including service as an outreach educator and operations manager for Plains Art Museum, during which time he also curated several exhibitions. Currently at NDSU, Beckermann is a musician and maker of musical instruments.

Olsen is also a musician and avid guitar aficionado with a long history in corporate communications, public affairs, media relations, and corporate events. He currently owns Michael J. Olsen Communications. Olsen is also a collector who has followed the evolution in modern luthiery in great detail over the past 20 plus years.