Pianos About Town honors Fort Collins’ 150th anniversary

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The colorful pianos you have seen around town are back to celebrate Fort Collins’ 150th birthday.

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Pianos About Town is a project featuring local artists who paint murals on pianos at the Art in Action Stage in Old Town Square for the public to observe and play.

Local artist Jenna Allen is painting a piano in honor of Fort Collins’ history of sugar beet farming. A pattern of sugar beets will pay tribute to the agricultural workers and farmers who helped build the city.

“I like the stuff that’s under the surface,” Allen said. “The surface here is the beer, the mustaches, the bikes. That’s all nice and pretty, but what actually structures the city?”

Allen knew that focusing on the distinct beer and bike culture would be a bit too easy. She wanted to do something less obvious. Allen was interested in the history.

“The sugar beets and the people who came to work here, who actually built the city up from the ground – that was Fort Collins to me,” Allen said.

Pianos About Town, now in its fourth year, is a joint effort between the Fort Collins Art in Public Places Program and community partner Bohemian Foundation.

“Our goal is to strengthen the role of music in our community,” said Kristen Karabensh, director of music programs for Bohemian Foundation.

The pianos are placed around town for the public to play and enjoy after they are painted. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Fort Collins’ 150th Birthday.”

This theme asks the artists to consider Fort Collins’ rich community, culture and history.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to see what kind of uniquely Fort Collins ideas and concepts the city’s (150th anniversary) would present,” said Ellen Martin, visual arts administrator for the City of Fort Collins.

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Allen chose sugar beet farming as her theme to keep it simple. Her piano will feature colors bright enough to catch your eye even at a distance.

“I wanted it to be something that you would see from across the street,” Allen said. “I want your eyeballs to vibrate so just working a lot with really bright colors, contrast and things like that. I wanted to make it something that you have to look at.”

The vibrantly colored piano will be on display throughout the summer with about a dozen others placed at various locations throughout Fort Collins.

Video shot and edited by Keegan Williams.

Collegian Staff Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached at news@collegian.com.