People around the world have been limiting face-to-face contact to slow the spread of COVID-19, meaning stress and feelings of isolation have burgeoned. And then came a spate of ferocious wildfires and an impassioned national conversation about racism.
The “Painted Pianos – Big Sound in a Small Town” project in Aztec was created by City Commissioner Rosalyn Fry in January, but it has taken on new significance since the start of the pandemic.
The brightly painted pianos, each decorated by a member of the community with a distinct theme, are meant to serve as a reminder to slow down and enjoy the moment. Passersby are encouraged to play the pianos, as well.
Bonnie Adams, a local artist and former nurse, depicted the healing power of music on her piano. People wear face masks on one side of the piano, but musical notes lead to people without masks on the other side.
In her last three years in the medical field, Adams was the manager of infection control at San Juan Regional Medical Center, where she helped prepare for a possible Ebola outbreak in the U.S. Pandemics are something Adams said she “deeply understands.”
In her time as a nurse, art was a “real go-to” for healing.
“When I was invited to do the piano, the idea unfolded,” Adams said.
Little coronaviruses slowly turn into notes across the piano, and the music staffs change from white to black. For Adams, the design shows “things being revealed and uncovered through the healing of art and music,” though she wants others to find their own meaning in the painting.
“And I love that it will be interactive,” Adams said.
The pianos will have signs that read “Play Me” in their respective locations around Aztec, including the 550 Brewpub, the Aztec Lil Flower Shop, Fatman Approved and the Main Avenue Plaza.
“When there is a disaster, the first thing people throw out is art, but it should be the last thing people throw out,” Adams said. “Art does more for people than they realize.”
Attractions like public painted pianos can be found in cities like New York and Seattle. Fry thought Aztec should have them, too.
The pianos were officially unveiled Saturday in the Main Avenue Plaza, but they have found permanent homes scattered throughout Aztec.
The city of Aztec partnered with the Aztec Chamber of Commerce to get the project off the ground. Sandy Waybourn, president of the chamber, painted a Dr. Seuss theme on her piano, appealing to both children and adults.
Waybourn said she hopes the pianos help attract people to the businesses where they are featured.
“It’s a good thing for the community because it is an attraction in Aztec that will draw people to our small town,” Waybourn said.
New pianos have already been donated to the chamber, and Fry is lining up local artists who are interested in donating their time and talent for public display.