Painted pianos hit the right note for all ages

Project sparks whimsy, engagement in downtown Troy.

TROY – A brightly painted piano placed near the fountain on the Miami County Courthouse Plaza didn’t take long to catch the attention of two young children walking with their mom.

One of the children ran to the Vincent van Gogh-theme piano and started playing with the keyboard.

That type of response is part of what organizers of the Painted Pianos Project like to see. For the second summer, pianos painted by local artists are scattered around downtown Troy beckoning to passersby.

The pianos are donated and given to artists who agree to paint them for display.

This year’s artists included Annette Cargill with help by Elllie Wannemacher and Abigail Twiss; Christy Veres; Jeff Shultz; Skyler Williams; Susan Westfall; and Beth Kerber.

In addition to the courthouse plaza, pianos are on the sidewalk area of Prouty Plaza on the Public Square and outside four downtown businesses.

The goal is to add another element of public art in the downtown, Andrea Keller, Troy Main Street executive director, told the city planning commission in a letter requesting permission to place the pianos in the historic district. The project is coordinated by the city of Troy and Main Street.

The pianos are on display daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., then covered and locked overnight. They are covered and uncovered daily by local businesses and volunteers.

Troy artist Annette Cargill painted the Vincent van Gogh piano with the help of her granddaughter Abigail Twiss and private art student Ellie Wannemacher.

Cargill was introduced to the piano project last summer when she was downtown with two of her younger grandchildren who saw one of the painted pianos.

“They had a fun time with it. I thought, ‘What a great thing having these painted pianos,’” Cargill said.

She said she enjoyed sharing the experience of painting the piano with the two girls in the second floor hallway of the Troy Sunshade Building where she has an art studio.

A high school art teacher for 25 years, Cargill said it was a rewarding experience and the project another way Troy demonstrates its commitment to the arts.

“Troy does so many amazing things on the square. This is another way to have the arts involved downtown,” she said.

Another piano – this with an underwater theme – was painted by artist Beth Kerber, owner of the downtown business Three Weird Sisters.

“I looked at it (the piano) for probably a good week” before being ready to get to work, Kerber said. She initially was thinking of a Van Gogh theme, but learned someone else was using it. She built a three-dimensional octopus to place on top of the piano, only to find out the piano would be covered and the octopus could not hang out on the top.

Instead, she painted an octopus on the piano. “It was not what I intended, but it turned out great,” she said.

The piano is across South Market Street from Kerber’s business. This gives her the option of running over “to add a little bit here or there” to the piano art, if the mood strikes, she said.

Allowing people to play the pianos adds to the project impact, Kerber said. “Anything that has people engaged, it tends to be more memorable. That is a memory we want people who visit Troy to leave with. We want people to know there is more to Troy,” she said.

Kerber spent some Sunday afternoons painting her piano in her downtown store. She was joined by another artist, her daughter Skyler Williams, who also painted a piano.

“I wanted to create something elegant and beautiful and whimsical,” she said. She planned to paint another cherub or person on the piano but ran out of time due to deadlines. Still, she said she was “very happy " with the final look.

Williams said she has been doing art “since before I could remember.” Everyone should give it a try, she said.

“Art is different for everybody. No matter how skilled or experienced you are, everybody can create something beautiful. … Do it to make you happy when it comes to art,” Williams said.

The pianos were donated by Chad Cannon, Janet Fahnestock Stephens, Richard and Katie Grow, Beth Dalton, Jennifer Ballard and Lora Wiedenheft; Scott and Kim Oglesbee donated professional piano tuning services.

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