Keys In The Cities – Public Pianos

Wednesday, October 1, 2014, 11:36 am
Smitty Smith

The Capital Area Blues Society, led by board member Larry Grudt, is developing a project that will place artistically decorated pianos in public spaces around East Lansing and Lansing. The project proposes to bring used pianos, local artists, business merchants, and the community together in a spontaneous, unique and entertaining manner. Donated pianos in working condition will be paired with local artists who will decorate them. The pianos will then be placed in high traffic, outdoor public spaces within the Lansing and East Lansing communities, where tourists and local residents can create impromptu concerts or simple performances.

Local civic and arts groups, municipalities, and individuals are being sought to support the project. Ben Hall, a local musician and front man of the popular band The Further Adventures of FatBoy and Jive Turkey has joined the team. The plan is to have six pianos placed in each city by May, 2015. The goal of Keys in the Cities is to develop a new and unique interaction within the community by using pianos, art and music as a canvas for uniting people and enjoyment of their local surroundings. People will benefit from joyful and whimsical interactions with the pianos and interaction with others playing the pianos.

Local merchants will benefit as the gatherings attract more patrons to their establishments. Cities will benefit as visitors find time spent in those locations creates an enjoyable and lasting memory, thus encouraging more visits to the area. The art will be visually attractive, encouraging greater appreciation of the local art scene within the community. The pianos will have tarps to protect them from the elements, and will be stored indoors during the winter.

“The idea of doing this in the capital area came from my sister telling me about the town she just moved to, Fort Collins, Colorado, and their piano project.” says Grudt. “Fort Collins is very vibrant community with energy in the arts, and they now have nearly 60 pianos in town. They call themselves ‘The Piano City’ and have experienced everything from children to highly skilled pianists entertaining crowds.” Other cities, including Seattle with its 'Pianos in the Parks', have similar programs in place.

Support of this project is just starting to develop. A Facebook page is in place, and pitches are being made to various municipal and civic arts groups. REACH Art Studio Center, has expressed support for Keys in the Cities; since 2004 the Center has been responsible for numerous public art projects, including the permanent rhino sculpture at Potter Park Zoo. Director Alice Brinkman says “REACH is all about getting art into public spaces, and this aligns well with our mission." Grudt states that he “welcomes the support of anyone willing to help with this project. This is about community. At the moment we need to work on a financial foundation to help push this forward. We also need lots of muscle, creative energy and enthusiasm!” He encourages interested people to post on the Facebook page or email the Capital Area Blues Society at to get involved.

Photos courtesy of Seattle Pianos in the Park and City of Ft. Collins

Disclosure: Smitty Smith is the Treasurer of the Capital Area Blues Society.

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