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Pianos on Parade comes to Willmar

Briana Sanchez / Tribune Willmar Senior High School Art Club members Sonja Madsen, from left, Peyton Mueske, Abdi Hawadle and Abigail Thompson work May 17 on painting a piano that will be displayed outside The Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar for the summer. Through the program Pianos on Parade, the brightly painted upright piano now displays scenes from the area in all four seasons.1 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Willmar Senior High School Art Club Peyton Mueske, top, and Sonja Madsen work May 17 in the art room at the high school on painting a donated upright piano. Through the program Pianos on Parade, the students' new work of art will be displayed all summer outside the Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar.2 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Willmar Senior High School Art Club member Peyton Mueske works May 17 at the school on the Pianos on Parade project. The club members said they are working outside their comfort zones on this project, which features scenes from the area in all four seasons.3 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Willmar Senior High School Art Club member Abdi Hawadle paints the back of a donated piano as he and other club members worked on the Pianos on Parade project May 17 in the art room at the high school. 4 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Willmar Senior High School Art Club member Abigail Thompson paints branches on top of a donated piano that now displays scenes from the four seasons through the program Pianos on Parade. 5 / 6
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Willmar Senior High School Art Club members Peyton Mueske, left, and Sonja Madsen paint a piano May 17 in the art room at the high school. They and other club members, through the program Pianos on Parade, painted the donated piano that will be displayed all summer outside the Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar.6 / 6

WILLMAR — Stop by The Barn Theatre in downtown Willmar this summer, and you'll see a new attraction — a brightly painted upright piano, waiting to be played.

Through the program Pianos on Parade, the Willmar Senior High School Art Club has painted a donated piano with scenes from the area in its four seasons.

The piano will be outside The Barn for the summer, rain or shine, a marriage of art and music for the community to enjoy.

Last week, four members of the after-school art club bent over and sat on the floor as they added branches to a winter tree and painted the tree line along the shore of a summer lake.

They primed the piano and did preliminary sketches of their design before touching the piano with the paint. The primer, some paint and brushes were funded by the grant for the project.

Abigail Thompson, 16, a sophomore, said their teacher Jessalyn Canavan mentioned the piano project to them, and a handful of them signed on for it. It's a first for the Art Club, in its second year.

Canavan said the club usually has a different theme each month, and members get a chance to work in different media.

"I think it's cool that it's a group project and it will be on display in the community," said Sonja Madsen, a 16-year-old sophomore, as she worked on painting the transition from summer to fall at one corner of the piano.

Payton Mueske, 16, and Abdi Hawadle, 15, added an extra coat of blue for the sky and worked on details here and there.

All of the students are moving out of their comfort zones for the project. Peyton prefers to draw animals and fantasies. Sonja makes small ornate polymer dragon sculptures. Abigail likes drawing buildings, either real or imaginary. Abdi likes to make jewelry of fused glass.

Mostly, they just like art, and liked the idea of painting something that will be displayed in the community, they said.

Pianos on Parade is part of Keys 4/4 Kids, an organization that accepts donated pianos and refurbishes them for sale. The proceeds from the sales support several programs that work to bring art and music together in communities.

Janet Olney of the Willmar Area Arts Council got the ball rolling in Willmar after she received an email from Keys 4/4 Kids founder Newell Hill.

After working mostly in St. Paul for several years, he was looking for a way to move into rural Minnesota, Olney said.

The organization received a $1,500 grant from the Elaine Adams Donor Advised Fund at the Willmar Area Community Foundation to support the project. Adams was a longtime teacher in the Willmar Public Schools.

Director of Teaching and Learning Carrie Thomas said she heard about the project from Olney and asked the art teachers if they were interested. Canavan offered to make it an Art Club project.

The piano was to be displayed at the high school's spring concerts before moving to The Barn for the summer.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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