Not Your Aunt Mary’s Piano

With names ranging from “Music is Healing”, to “Uncommon Melody, painted upright pianos decorate the streets of Aztec in the summer, lending an unintentional soundtrack to the lives of those living and visiting Aztec. Inspired by a similar project in Portland, Oregon, the painted pianos in Aztec are meant to bring joy, music, and artwork into the public sphere. You’re watching the “Local News Network, brought to you by Three Rivers Brewery and Northern Edge Casino. I’m Hayley Opsal.

I was visiting my son and family in the Pacific Northwest and we were in Portland, downtown Portland, in July. And, lo and behold, there was painted piano. And it was black and white, painted like a raccoon. And immediately a gentleman came up, sat down, and started playing classical music on it. Well, I was impressed. And it just looked like so much fun, and people were coming and taking selfies of themselves on the piano, and the piano said, “Play me.” Well, I came home thinking, would Aztec support a painted piano?”

Fry? Posted on Facebook asking to buy an older piano, and began asking around to see if any local artist would be willing to paint one. Four donated pianos later, and volunteers from the local gallery, Feat Of Clay, and the piano project was just beginning. One of the founding artists of Feat Of Clay, Bonnie Adams, painted and designed the piano titled, Music Is Healing.

She said, “Do I want to paint a piano?” And this happened in the pandemic, so what else was I doing? You know? Trapped in my house, we put a piano on the front porch, and I painted the piano.

Adams drew inspiration from the Covid 19 pandemic induced lockdowns, the heightened feel of divisiveness in the county due to race divisions, her love of art and music, and her grandchildren to create her design. Like all the pianos that are part of the project, the piano says, “Play me.”, meant to inspire passersby to sit down and take a moment to enjoy the instrument.

We encourage children to come up and play the pianos, because so often, and I always tell this story, “Did you ever go to your Aunt Mary’s house, and she said, ‘Don’t touch the piano?'” Well, we say, “Touch the piano. That’s the purpose of it, enjoy it.” So, that’s what we encourage. Let’s have fun with music and art.

Although the pianos may have started out as an idea from Fry, the project has grown into a true community project. The Aztec Chamber Of Commerce helped the project gain nonprofit status. The Carnegie Foundation and Northwest New Mexico Art Council have provided grants to help maintain the pianos, and pay for the paint. And Lowe’s Home Improvement Store donated paint for the pianos. Aztec has hosted Pianos In The Park as a way to showcase the individual pianos, bringing in both professional musicians, and making time and space for amateurs to perform in a concert series, free to the public. The events were well received, and the plan is to continue the concert as long as there is continued interest in the pianos.

Have fun. This is supposed to be fun. Like I said, Aunt Mary is not there telling you to not touch the piano. Just enjoy it, and we’d love to have more children involved. The adults aren’t supposed to have all the fun on this. And I just think the combination of public art and the music is just great.

The Painted Pianos is always looking for more volunteers to help the project continue. If you’re interested in volunteering as an artist, or as part of the board, call Rosalyn Fry. You can find a map with all the locations and names of the Painted Pianos online at the City of Aztecs website. Thank you for watching this edition of the “Local News Network.” I’m Haley Opsal.

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