Newton’s “astute pianos” brought together artists and musicians
Gavris said Newton Community Pride has turned to more visual arts than performance arts during the pandemic, so bringing the Artful Piano Project back this year seemed like a good option.
âOne of the key parts of our mission is to bring art directly to where people are and create more foot traffic for our small businesses that have been put to the test during COVID-19,â said said Gavris. “We thought it was a great opportunity to marry two parts of our mission.”
Newton Community Pride commissioned local artists from the community in mid-July to paint the nine pianos for six weeks.
The artwork on the pianos ranged from swimming jellyfish to wide-eyed monsters to swarms of butterflies, all unique to each artist.
Ocllo Mason, a Natick-based artist who participated in the project, painted a piano at the Newton Center titled “Crimson in Clover”.
Mason said his favorite part of the project was working with other artists.
âIt can be isolating, painting on your own in your studio and having no one to talk to,â Mason said. “It was just wonderful as an artist to have other people who are artistic and think art is really fun and cool to do their own thing.”
Abby Zheng, a student artist and student at Newton South High School, painted the piano titled âMountain Viewsâ at Farlow Park in Newton Corner. Zheng said that art has always been a way of expressing oneself.
“My passion for art started when I was very young,” Zheng said, “mainly from my mother, who was an artist herself.”
Zheng said she always wanted to express her art beyond the canvas itself, and the Newton Community Pride project was a perfect opportunity.
Prior to the Artful Piano project, Zheng had also painted a door for Newton Community Pride’s “Newton Out Doors” public art initiative – “Corner Vending Machine” in Auburndale – and when they asked her to paint a piano, she said she was excited to do it again.
âI decided to approach this piano piece with something that is not the typical Eurocentric piece style like Bob Ross, but something that is related to my culture,â Zheng said.
Zheng said she enjoyed working with other artists and getting their point of view and perspective.
âBecause of the pandemic, most of the time I confined myself to my room to paint,â Zheng said. “And so, having this opportunity to paint with other artists, I really saw how different artists see their pieces and how different images relate to different meanings.”
Mason said the artists all supported each other.
âWe were coming to check on everyone’s work and provide feedback and encouragement, and it was just wonderful,â she said.
As part of the Artful Piano project, Newton Community Pride recruits âPiano Palâ volunteers in each village who cover the pianos with tarpaulins to protect them from the elements, clean them and take care of them as needed.
Despite these efforts, some pianos did not withstand the bad weather in July well; The humidity and rain made some piano keys and pedals stiff and unusable, Gavris said.
Ultimately, Gavris said, she hopes people enjoyed the artwork on some of the pianos even after they deteriorated.
âPlaying music is also part of the arts,â Mason said. âSo two of the artistic communities come together and do great things. “
Zheng said she appreciated the opportunity to showcase her works as a young artist.
âAs an artist, it makes me really proud because my art is showcased and admired,â Zheng said. “I think for a lot of high school artists this is a very rare opportunity to meet.”
Sage Widder, a high school student from Newton South High School and another student artist on the project, painted the Auburndale Library’s âDriftingâ piano with colorful jellyfish. Widder said she appreciated the opportunity, especially as a young artist.
“I think a lot of times, as high school kids, we get the message that art isn’t a real career or that it’s not something we can really pursue or have success with,” said Widder said. “I think this experience has shown me that this is not necessarily true.”
If they can, Newton Community Pride hopes to bring back the Artful Piano project next year so people can enjoy and play the piano again.
âAfter the pandemic, more than any other time, I think people have become more aware of the importance arts and culture bring to residents,â said Gavris. âHearing spontaneous play, seeing a pretty piece of art that you wouldn’t normally see shopping or shopping, I think it brings joy on a morning or afternoon.â
Isabelle Durso can be reached at [email protected]