Painted pianos strike the right note for all ages

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One of the kids ran to the Vincent van Gogh piano and started playing the keyboard.

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

The pianos will be donated and given to artists who agree to paint them for the exhibition.

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

Next to the courthouse, there are pianos on the sidewalk of Prouty Plaza in Public Square and in front of four downtown businesses.

The goal is to add another element of public art downtown, Andrea Keller, executive director of Troy Main Street, told the city planning commission in a letter asking for 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 10am to 8pm, 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 first learned about 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 lot of fun with it. I thought, ‘What a great thing to have 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.

Cargill, who has been a high school art teacher for 25 years, said it was a rewarding experience and the project is another way Troy demonstrates his commitment to the arts.

“Troy does so many amazing things on the pitch. This is another way to bring the art downtown,” she said.

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

“I probably looked at it (the piano) for a good week,” Kerber said before I was ready to get to work. She initially thought of a Van Gogh theme, but learned that someone else was using it. She built a three-dimensional octopus to put on the piano, only to find out that the piano was covered and the octopus couldn’t hang on top.

Instead, she drew an octopus on the piano. “It wasn’t what I intended, but it turned out great,” she said.

The piano is across from Kerber’s shop on South Market Street. This gives her the opportunity to “add a little bit here or there” to the piano artistry when the mood hits, she said.

Allowing people to play the piano adds to the impact of the project, Kerber said. “Anything that engages people tends to be more memorable. This is a memory we want Troy visitors to take home. We want people to know that Troy has more to offer,” she said.

Kerber spent a few Sunday afternoons painting her piano at her downtown shop. She was joined by another artist, her daughter Skyler Williams, who also painted a piano.

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

Williams said she’s been making art “since I can remember.” Everyone should try it, she said.

“Art is different for everyone. No matter how skilled or experienced you are, everyone 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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