Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Painted Pianos

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Painted Pianos

Article excerpt

The pianos of Sarasota Keys may never again sound as good as they did at the kickoff of the city's newest public art project Friday afternoon in Five Points Park. Six professional pianists, seated at six spinet pianos colorfully customized by seven local artists, joined forces for a brief concert to usher in the new program, which will allow anyone to tickle the ivories during business hours outside six host locations on Main Street and Palm and Pineapple Avenues from now until the end of May.

"We wanted to show what a pop-up concert could be," said Rich Ridenour, a concert pianist who spearheaded the project after moving to Sarasota last year. "But it's just about impossible to find music for six pianos."

Despite his own last-minute arranging and just 20 minutes of impromptu rehearsal with fellow musicians, Ridenour managed to lead a polished performance that included a jazzy "Summertime" from "Porgy and Bess" and a rousing "Stars and Stripes Forever," all warmly received by a throng of enthusiastic listeners.

"What a perfect ending to my day," said Mary Powers-Boss, a 19- year Sarasota resident who had volunteered at the Marietta Museum of Whimsy all afternoon and wisely thought to bring her own chair to the benchless park. "I think this is marvelous. I only wish I was a pianist so I could play."

Nearby, 4-year-old Finnegan Moran danced happily around his mother, who was rehabbing a foot injury atop a wheeled scooter. Ann Marie Moran, in town to visit relatives, said that while their hometown of Detroit has many things, "it doesn't have this and I wish we did."

Finnegan -- who does not yet, but plans to eventually play trumpet and drums and piano -- said "the clown one" (painted by Richard Capes with a circus theme) was his favorite instrument.

Jim Shirley of the Arts and Cultural Alliance, which is overseeing the project, said the program came together remarkably quickly by local standards, in just over six weeks.

"This has been one of those times when the entire community has really pitched in," he said.

That included the City Commission, which quickly approved a six- month trial period; Pritchards Pianos and Organs, which came up with the used pianos (fitted with dehumidifiers to withstand Sarasota's weather); Ridenour and former City Commissioner Ken Shelin, who helped shepherd the process; the artists, who had just two weeks to work their creative magic; and a half dozen funding sponsors and business hosts. …

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