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Watch now: Colorful pianos throughout Decatur are ready to be played

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Public Painted Pianos Project at Richland Community College. READ MORE HERE.

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Lindsay Thompson sits at the piano that she created for the Public Painted Pianos Project in Macon County. The piano is in the Student Center at Richland Community College.

DECATUR — Art is usually not intended to be touched.

However, the colorful pianos placed at various locations throughout Decatur beckon to be played.

The musical artwork is the subject of the Public Painted Pianos Project in Macon County.

One of the artists, Lindsay Thompson, was requested to use her talents in creating an artistic piece. “I was asked to volunteer my time to donate and spread music and art and joy,” she said.

Thompson is an art major at Millikin University. The piano’s design was thought of while she began painting for the project. “I pick a color scheme that I want to go with,” Thompson said about the piano sitting in the Student Center at Richland Community College. “I just started painting.”

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Painting a piano is more difficult than working on a flat canvas, according to Thompson. “It’s a lot more precise,” she said. “There’s a lot more curves on a piano.”

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The Public Painted Pianos Project in Macon County at Richland Community College was put in a welcoming space that entices people, like Meredith Johnson-Palmer, dean of Student Success, to play it.

Greg Florian, RCC vice president of finance and administration, said he enjoys listening as piano players take a break to play. “We thought it would be a great addition for our students,” he said. “A few of them have come by to play a little bit.”

Public Painted Pianos Project organizer Gail Fyke had viewed Thompson’s work and asked her to paint one of the donated pianos. Fyke has convinced 11 other artists to join the project. Some of the places displaying their work are the Children’s Museum of Illinois, Hope Academy, Boys and Girls Club, Webster Cantrell Hall, Decatur Family YMCA, McGaughey Elementary School and Millikin University Dolson Hall. Others are still in the planning stages, including a future piece at the Salvation Army and Macon Resources Inc.

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Artist Lindsay Thompson said it is more difficult to paint a piano than it is create a piece of art on a canvas.  “It’s a lot more precise,” she said. “There’s a lot more curves on a piano.”

Fyke was inspired to create the project while assisting her son after his brain surgery in New York. Sing for Hope is a project with 50 painted pianos placed in public areas inviting the community to play them. “Artists from all over the country compete to paint those pianos,” Fyke said. “And when they are done in June, they give them away to the New York City school district.”

Fyke has approached artists while other artists have volunteered. Finding the pianos doesn’t take as much effort. “They are falling out of the sky,” she said. “I’ve had 300 offers and I’ve only taken 12.”

Placing the pianos in various locations has been easy as well, according to Fyke. “Nobody has told me no,” she said.

However, an explanation is often needed, since the public is encouraged to play the art piece. “It’s OK to let them touch it,” Fyke said.

Fyke lets the artist decide on the scene, which may direct where the piano may be placed and the audience it is expected to draw. “It can’t be loud if it’s going to a nursing home,” Fyke said.

The piano at the Children’s Museum of Illinois was painted in honor of Tanner Gillen, a 14-year-old resident who died from brain cancer. “His aunt painted it,” Fyke said. “She’s an art teacher at Johns Hill.”

Abby Koester, president and CEO of the museum, said the blue piano, with its sunflowers and origami boats, has been a popular piece since it arrived in April. “We put it right next to our theater space,” she said. “People will play the piano, and people dance and sing.”

Piano players with various levels of experience will play. “Including some kids who’ve never had the opportunity to play or touch a piano,” Koester said. “Everything here is hands-on, so you can touch it and play with it.”

Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR


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