Cheng Li learned to play piano as a young child. “I remember riding my little sky-blue bike down to my piano teacher’s house for my weekly piano lessons,” said Li. “From then on, music has been the one constant in my life. When I moved overseas from Japan to the U.S. and lost my spoken language, music was the one language that stayed with me. Music was there for me when I felt lost without my voice.”
Li is painting a piano through Pianos About Town, a program that brings local art and spontaneous music to the streets of Fort Collins, Colorado. “This project called out to me because it married two of my passions: music and art,” said Li. “When I was designing this piece, my focus was to create an inviting and fun design to attract people to play the piano. Whether a new player, a seasoned player, or just a passerby, I want to share my love of music and art with them through this project.”
Li played a painted piano on her first visit to Fort Collins. “I spotted a painted piano and sat down to play,” said Li. “In that moment, playing on the beautiful piano under the dappled shade of an aged tree, I felt at home in this new place. I hope that through my art, I can help create a similar magical moment for someone else strolling through the town.”
Li’s title for her design is “Whimsical Music Machine,” a concept that reimagines the internal mechanisms of a piano. Instead of strings and hammers, this piano is powered by gears and pipes. The whimsical musical machine grows rainbows and plants, and the world is inhabited by colorful creatures who call the piano their home.
Pianos About Town
Pianos About Town is a collaboration among Bohemian Foundation, the City of Fort Collins Art in Public Places, and the Fort Collins Downtown Development Authority. Community members watch as local artists transform donated pianos into public art. Placed across 20 locations across town in the summer, and six locations in the winter, the completed pianos offer surprise interruptions of color and music across Fort Collins.
Applications to paint a piano in 2023 will open Dec. 5 at fcgov.com/artspublic.