Painted public pianos provide "Keys in the Cities" to passersby

Everyone loves the piano.
 
Larry Grudt wants to share that love by bringing painted pianos to public spaces.
 
Beginning May 30, about a dozen artfully-painted pianos will premiere in outdoor spaces around East Lansing and Lansing through "Keys in the Cities"—a program spearheaded by Grudt and a committee of five. The outdoor pianos, Grudt says, are for anyone who wants to pull up the bench and play, and are intended to create an engaging street atmosphere for passersby.
 
"Pianos are a strong draw for people," says Grudt. "And painted pianos are so inviting. No one who sees one ever questions if they're good enough. They just sit down and play."
 
"Keys in the Cities" will feature uprights and spinets painted by local artists and community groups in outdoor locations from May through Halloween. Grudt says artists have brought a diverse array of colorful works to their "canvases," with many reflecting landmarks in Lansing and East Lansing.
 
Grudt got the idea for "Keys in the Cities" from a similar program in Fort Collins, Colo. Posts of painted pianos he had seen online and at ArtPrize also captured his imagination.
 
Two Men and a Truck donated moving services for all pianos, and will store the pianos over the winter months. Grudt says the average life expectancy of the outdoor pianos is one to three years, with artwork weathering before the instrument.
 
All pianos are sourced from private donations, while sponsors and individual donations cover artist stipends, liability insurance, paint and materials, and tarps for pianos and benches. The estimated cost for the program's inaugural year is around $15,000. Contributions are welcome the current and upcoming years.
 
"For me, the program is about what it does for individuals and people passing by," Grudt says. "When you see a piano, it affects how you perceive a location. You don't even have to hear the music to feel a deeper relationship with your community."
 
Lansing piano installations include the Lansing Art Gallery by Brendan Romero Martin, Midtown Brewing Co. by Elisa Schmidt, REO Town by Marissa Thaler, REO Town Pub by Alison Alfredson, South Lansing by Broad Art Museum and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Community Development Association and Farmers Market, Turner Mini Park by Debbie Fehrenbach, and Sparrow Hospital by Tiffany Klein. Pianos in East Lansing include the "no name park" at Abbot and Albert by Broad Art Museum and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Fountain Plaza by Jennifer Medler, the Bailey Street Plaza 500 block by Joy Schroeder, and the Wharton Center by Liz Wylegala.
 
Grudt says the group is also seeking funds for piano installations at the Old Town General Store and the Lansing Mall.
 
Source: Larry Grudt, Program Director, Keys in the Cities
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

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