The Piano Project came to life at the beginning of the summer, and now the second phase is about to begin.
The six painted pianos placed downtown by Laty Xayavong and the Klamath Falls Downtown Association have inspired and delighted many over the summer.
As the weather changes, the beautiful outdoor pianos must come inside. Some will still be playable inside their new homes, and some will be put in storage until next summer.
Xayavong said two already have set destinations. The piano currently in front of Leap of Taste on the 900 block of Main Street will be placed at Oregon Tech, and the one at the Klamath County Courthouse, at the south end of Main Street, will be moved to The Ledge outdoor store at 369 S. Sixth St. All of the pianos will be brought inside by the end of October.
It’s safe to say that the project was well-received.
“What surprised me was just the tremendous support of the community,” Xayavong said.
The Piano Project was awarded a grant for $1,800 from the Sky Lakes Community Foundation to use for art supplies.
The Project also garnered a state award; Best Placemaking Project from Oregon Main Street, an honor Xayavong did not foresee.
“I wasn’t even thinking of us getting an award,” Xayavong said. “I just did it for my own passion, wanting something cool for the community,” he said.
Xayavong said he hopes others will be inspired to create their own placemaking projects.
As with any new major project, there is room for fine-tuning. Xayavong ran into some unexpected issues with the project.
For example, some types of paint lasted better than others, so next year Xayavong will create some guidelines for the artists to make sure their art is well-preserved.
There were also issues with tuning, as The Piano Project struggled to find someone to keep the pianos in tune throughout the season.
Many of the pianos also sustained minor wear and tear from being outside, but Xayavong said that is to be expected and part of the fun.
As unplayable pianos are phased out, new ones can be added, mixing up the art and giving new artists a chance to be featured.
Xayavong said lots of people have been asking how they can apply to paint the next batch of pianos.
“I think next year it’s going to be very competitive,” he said.
The other key element that surprised Xayavong was just how many people seemed to be inspired by the presence of the instruments.
“I grew up with music and art and dance in elementary school and middle school and high school but I’ve noticed a lot of people aren’t really into that anymore,” Xayavong said.
He said it seems that maybe hearing how beautiful a well-played piano can sound, or maybe plinking on the ivory keys themselves seems to open up new possibilities for people.
“A lot of people would say, ‘I love this project because it has inspired me to go and learn how to play the piano,’ ” he said.
He said it started early, before the pianos were even placed downtown. A worker in the warehouse where the pianos were kept for a few months was tempted by the allure of the keys and learned a couple of songs before the pianos were moved out.
Xayavong said several people have contacted The Piano Project to ask where they can get lessons for themselves or their children.
Even this reporter was inspired after writing the initial story about the project and is happy to report that she can now play “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “Stairway to Heaven.”
Artists can apply to paint the next batch of pianos in early spring. Xayavong said there will be between six and seven new additions to the fleet of colorful pianos, and they will all be placed downtown at the beginning of next summer.