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Painted pianos project will be unveiled in downtown Aztec

Instruments will be made available for vistiors to play

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Artist Timithy Gordon poses behind his contribution to the Painted Pianos -- Big Sound in a Small Town project that will be unveiled this weekend in Aztec.
  • The project was developed by Aztec City Commissioner Rosalyn Fry.
  • She came up with the idea after seeing a similar project in downtown Portland, Oregon.
  • The project includes four pianos this year, but at least three more will be added next year.

FARMINGTON — A long-planned creative project that combines music with art will be unveiled this weekend in downtown Aztec.

Painted Pianos — Big Sound in a Small Town is the brainchild of Aztec City Commissioner Rosalyn Fry. While visiting her son in Portland, Oregon, a couple of years ago, Fry visited the city's downtown one day and found herself drawn to a scene in which a crowd had gathered around a musician performing classical music on a piano painted with a raccoon motif.

She learned the piano had been left out for members of the public to play, and a local artist had provided the whimsical paint job.

Fry saw no reason a similar project couldn't be undertaken in Aztec, especially when she learned later that many other towns across the country had initiated public painted piano projects of their own. Fry introduced the idea to her fellow Aztec residents earlier this year through social media, and it met an enthusiastic reception, although progress on the project was slowed considerably by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, visitors to downtown Aztec will have the chance to check out, and play, the first four pianos involved in the project. They will be displayed in the Main Avenue Plaza just north of Rubia's Mexican restaurant, and Fry hopes to have all the artists who have painted the instruments on hand to be honored for their work.

Timithy Gordon was one of four artists who donated their time and talent to a painted pianos project for downtown Aztec.

Anyone interested in playing one of the pianos is encouraged to show up and do so, she said, singling out one group in particular.

"Children who have always been told not to touch the piano can now touch the piano," she said, laughing.

The four pianos were painted by Timithy Gordon, who chose an Aztec Ruins National Monument theme; Sandy Waybourn, who did a Dr. Seuss theme; Bonnie Adams, whose theme centers on the healing power of music; and Cindy Iacovetto and Connie Hutcheson, who chose a theme focusing on a block of Swiss cheese with mice. The artists donated their time and effort.

The City Commission appropriated $2,700 for the project, which has been used to tune the pianos and have a high-quality cover made for each one. Lowe's Home Improvement store donated the paints and other materials the artists used.

After this weekend, the pianos will be stationed at four locations around downtown. One will remain on the plaza, one will be sent to 550 Brewing, another will go to the Lil Aztec Flower Shop and the last one will go to the FATman Approved restaurant. The pianos will be positioned outside through the end of September and made available for the public to play, then moved indoors when the weather turns cold.

Related:Painted pianos project for downtown Aztec gaining traction

Fry said anyone who plays one of the pianos will be asked to maintain social distancing from other people, and to use the cleaning and sanitizing materials that will be made available to avoid the spread of the virus. She said there will be masks available for anyone who attends the kickoff event this weekend.

An Aztec Ruins National Monument theme graces a piano painted by Timithy Gordon.

Before the pianos are rolled back inside at the end of September, Fry said city officials are planning an end-of-season celebration for the project featuring a performance by local pianist Hoyle Osborne.

They have other plans, as well. Fry said three additional pianos already have been donated, and the nonprofit Connie Gotsch Arts Foundation has awarded the project a $1,000 grant to cover the costs of painting and tuning those instruments. Local artists Karen Ellsbury and Robin Kelly already have agreed to paint those pianos.

The pianos have been donated by Tracey McGinnes, Jesse Frizzell, Angela Wennerberg-Jenkins, Katie Burnett and Annette Tidwell Abend, who donated a player piano to the Aztec Senior Center, that was swapped for two pianos that facility had on hand.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.