Painted pianos project will open 2nd season in Aztec this weekend

Kickoff event takes place from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
"Uncommon Melody" is the theme of this piano painted by Karen Ellsbury that will be unveiled during the kickoff event this weekend in Aztec for the Big Sound in a Small Town public art project.

FARMINGTON — After spending the cold-weather months in storage, Aztec's painted pianos will be rolled out this weekend for a season-opening event in the downtown district.

The four pianos that were donated to the Big Sound in a Small Town public art project before being painted by local artists will be joined by three new pianos this season. The instruments will be displayed, and played, from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 8 at locations up and down Main Avenue, including the plaza on the north side of Rubia's Mexican restaurant, 116 S. Main Ave.; the 550 Brewing taproom, 119 E. Chuska St.; and at the Vanilla Moose, 1721 W. Aztec Blvd.

The new pianos were painted by Karen Ellsbury, whose piano features an "Uncommon Melody" theme; Robin Kelly, with a "Spirit of Aztec" theme; and Christy Clugston, with a "Roaring '20s" theme. Local musicians will be on hand to play the pianos, along with 16 students under the supervision of instructor Alyssa Brown.

"They're all very different, and I think it will add a lot of variety to our public art downtown," said Aztec City Commissioner Rosalyn Fry, who initiated the painted pianos project last year.

The pianos are positioned outside during the warmer months throughout town, and visitors are encouraged to sit down and play them. Fry brought the idea back to Aztec after visiting Portland, Oregon, and seeing how successful that city's painted pianos project was.

The project was unveiled for an abbreviated season in downtown Aztec late last summer.

"We brought them out in August, and, of course, COVID has been a factor in slowing things down," Fry said, adding she hopes more people take advantage of the opportunity play one of the pianos this year.

Hoyle Osborne performs for the crowd on Aug. 15, 2020, in the Main Avenue Plaza in Aztec during an introductory event for the Big Sound in a Small Town painted pianos project.

Cleaning materials are available for each piano so that players may sanitize the instruments before they are used. Fry said masks also will be available during this weekend's event for spectators and performers alike.

Most of the pianos are stored inside at night to protect them from the elements during the warmer seasons, but Fry said a few of them that can't easily be moved indoors have been supplied with waterproof, insulated covers so they can be left in place.

A "Pianos in the Park" concert featuring the painted pianos will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 17, in Minium Park in downtown Aztec with Sheldon Pickering and Hoyle Osborne serving as the featured entertainment. Fry said children's activities would be a part of that event.

More:Painted pianos wheeled out in downtown Aztec

While the number of pianos included in the project has almost doubled this year, Fry said she isn't sure if more pianos will be added.

"We have a couple of places that have asked for pianos," she said. "We'll evaluate that and determine if we can handle more pianos."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription.