Parkites want people to play pianos in public places
February 27, 2012
Imagine walking along the Spiro Trail or waiting to cross Heber Avenue at Main Street and hearing someone playing a handful of joyful notes on an outdoor piano.
Now imagine seeing someone playing a piano that is refinished and decorated with modern or classical art.
Alison Butz and Mark Maziarz love this idea. That’s the reason whey formed Art Pianos for All, an installation of fancifully decorated pianos in public settings.
"The displays will invite the public to play, which sometimes puts people in a creative spot or an uncomfortable spot," Butz told The Park Record. " that, I mean, some people will not know what to do when they see the pianos, but we’re are hoping that we are encouraging them to sit down and play.
"It won’t matter if they can only play ‘Chopsticks’ or, if they’re great musicians, they can sit down and entertain those around them," she said.
The idea came to Butz and Maziarz while there were on a City Tour, hosted by Leadership Park City, to Fort Collins, Colorado, last September.
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"It’s funny because we weren’t together when we saw the pianos, but they made an impact on us and we talked about them afterwards," Maziarz said. "They were like little hubs in the community and everyone who saw them was intrigued. I know we both were drawn to the pianos, because they were something that, to me, was pure fun."
The instruments were all in good working order, and were being displayed year round, Butz said.
"In regards to the elements, they all had tarps that could cover them," she said. "And we were informed that people took pride in them and took it upon themselves to make sure they were covered, which eliminated the burden of having someone keeping vigil around the clock."
Butz and Maziarz brough the idea back to Utah and talked with the Park City and Summit County Public Art Advisory Boards about funding.
The goal, right now, is to start with two pianos, Butz said.
"Our first location is the Old Town Transit Center, and we’re hoping to have a piano up there inside the building for a couple of weeks, until the spring comes," she said. "From there, we’ll look for an outside location, and as of Thursday, the Kimball Art Center is interested in having it set up on the corner of Heber Avenue and Main Street."
The second location is somewhere in Coalville.
"We don’t have a specific place, but they have been so supportive," Maziarz said.
In order for the project to become a reality, Butz and Maziarz need the instruments.
"We’re asking for piano donations and are looking for artists from anywhere in Utah who are interested in doing the art work to contact us in the next couple of weeks," Maziarz said.
Artists and donors can visit the Art Pianos for All Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/artpianosforall and download the pdf file for more information.
"We’re looking for pianos that work well and we won’t be able to use any that needs thousands of dollars of repairs to make it sound good," Maziarz said. "We’re asking for upright pianos, but if it all goes well, at some point I think we’ll also talk about grand or baby grand pianos."
Maziarz’s wife, musician and singer Mary Beth, will test the donations to make sure they play.
"The piano has to get past her first," Maziarz said with a laugh. "If it’s a crappy piano, it won’t work for us."
A donor will not only be rewarded by the fact that their piano will used for a public-art installation, but will also be able to claim the donation as a tax write off.
"The Park City Foundation has taken us in as a special project and if someone donates a piano, we can give them a letter of value so they can claim it," Maziarz said.
Once the pianos have been given the thumbs up, refinished and set in place, they will be kept in operating order, Butz said.
"We have a budget that will keep the pianos tuned," she said. "A tuner will visit each site approximately once a month, so that they will continue to be a pleasure to play and hear."
Butz and Maziarz are already prepared to address concerns about late-night performances that could disturb the peace.
"We’re going to put a piece of masonite on the back of the pianos to mute the sound, like they do in Ft. Collins," Butz said. "So if anyone goes and plays after hours, it won’t be a nuisance."
Art Pianos for All is an independent project that isn’t aligned with the Historic Park City or other business organizations.
"We came up with this from the love of our hearts," Butz said. "The thing about something like this is that it will leave a legacy, and I’ve always been able to work with cool projects, whether they were for the Wildlife Foundation or Historic Park City. And I’ve looked at them as something my kids would enjoy and I had some extra time for this and Mark had an interest and we knew we could work together on this."
Maziarz said they are not going to use the installation to create another nonprofit organization in Park City.
"While we would like to see the project grow, we are looking to hand this off to an existing organization in two years time," he said. "We’re also looking for local businesses to sponsor these as well."
For more information about Art Pianos for All, visit http://www.facebook.com/artpianosforall