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‘Art, much like rock ‘n roll, is freeing’

Colfax-Mingo artists showcased at Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame

Colfax-Mingo seniors, Megan Wood and Sarah Bentley pose with their guitar art project for this year's Iowa 
Rock 'n Roll Music Association's art contest Oct. 25 in the high school's art room. The guitars used in the 
project are donated by the Gretsch Guitar Company.
Colfax-Mingo seniors, Megan Wood and Sarah Bentley pose with their guitar art project for this year's Iowa Rock 'n Roll Music Association's art contest Oct. 25 in the high school's art room. The guitars used in the project are donated by the Gretsch Guitar Company.

COLFAX – From the Chicano rock forefather, Ritchie Valens, to the country duo, the Everly Brothers, the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Arnolds Park features many of the biggest names in music.

Since May, two Colfax-Mingo high school students’ names have been right along side these iconic legends.

“I remember going up (to the museum) and looking at all the guitars. They are all really cool,” C-M senior Megan Wood said. “Now, something I am a part of is in there.”

Wood and fellow senior Sarah Bentley were featured at the rock ‘n roll museum this summer for winning the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association’s annual Guitar Art Program contest.

According to Wood, the two decided to enter the contest at the suggestion of Wood’s grandfather, Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer Dennis Farland. Wood, who has loved art since she was in elementary school, thought it would be perfect to team up with Bentley, a musician and fellow artist, to transform an old guitar into a unique work of art.

“The guitar seemed like a new challenge, something I have never done before and it seemed to be fun,” Wood said. “I definitely needed (Bentley’s) help deconstructing the guitar. Because I don’t know my way around guitars.”

The duo said they received the vintage instrument donated by the Gretsch Guitar Company in April, a mere month before their submission date. The two asked for metallic paint from their art teacher Jeff Sontag and got a bunch of loose gears, clocks and keys from Wood’s mother. After many hours of work during and after school, the C-M artists were able to design a guitar that would win them a place among the greats.

“I had some ideas how I wanted it to be laid out. I did a strip of sheet music at the bottom of the guitar, because I knew I wanted that on there,” Wood said. “I just let the pieces fall in place and see where things fit.”

According to Wood, their guitar had a steampunk theme. Known for combining the British Victorian era, the old American West and futuristic, steam-based technology, the two said the steampunk genre reflected perfectly what rock ‘n roll stands for.

“I feel like steampunk reflects on the rock genre because the main reason I believe rock was created is because it is different, it is unique. Steampunk is the same. It may look the same, but you can add your little fling to it,” Bentley said. “It is old and is the future. Rock, you can listen it from 2000s, you can listen to it now. Green Day, for example you can hear that old (style), but you can see how they switched it.”

Officials at IRRMA said through the use of this theme, the artists were able to create a guitar unlike anything they have seen before.

“The Colfax-Mingo guitar was very unique and I loved all of the different textures they included,” Cheri Tungland, IRRMA operations manager said. “They definitely thought outside the box on their design.”

According to Tungland, 2017’s guitar art competition featured four guitars crafted by artists from schools across the state. IRRMA held an anonymous vote in the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame Museum and announced the winner at its Induction Spectacular Labor Day weekend.

She said through this program, which started in 2004, the association is able to support young artists and inspire an appreciation for rock ‘n roll in the next generation of music lovers.

“Art, much like rock ‘n roll, is freeing. Both provide a forum to share experiences through their interpretation by each individual,” she said. “We are Iowa Rock ‘n Roll love inspiring young artists by providing opportunities to showcase their talents.”

As the museum is now closed for the season, their guitar will soon be auctioned off to help fund the Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Scholarship Foundation, according to the artists. They said they are glad their work of art will be used to help another young person, in a similar situation as them, reach their dreams.

“Just thinking about college and life after high school is really stressful,” Wood said. “A music scholarship is going to make it easier for whoever gets it.”

The two already received their guitar for next year’s contest. The artists said they plan on creating a guitar that features the album art of great rock ‘n roll musicians from over the ages.

Although they said it would be great to walk away with a back-to-back win, the duo said they are just glad they are able to showcase their artistic abilities and love for rock ‘n roll.

“The school really focuses on sports,” Bentley said. “All the arts are in the shadows. I wish it would be noticed more. It’s like, ‘Oh look, you can paint.’ It is part of me. No I’m not holding a basketball, but I’m making something that is me.”

For more information about Iowa Rock ‘n Roll Music Association’s Guitar Art Program, visit

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at areyes@myprairiecitynewscom

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