By Peggy Mackenzie
The well-worn, upright piano mysteriously showed up outside City Hall’s doorstep one December morning in 2014, and almost like a stray dog or cat, the community adopted it. Passers-by are often treated to musical passages as pianists of all skill levels “tickle the ivories” for the fun and enjoyment of the moment. The piano is now, more or less, a permanent member of the Lewisburg downtown neighborhood.
In keeping with the city’s stance on appreciation for the arts, late last fall, the Lewisburg Cultural Arts Roundtable borrowed on an idea circulating amongst towns across the country to hold a piano-painting contest, presumably because piano adoption is in vogue, and transform our local adoptee into a wonderful outdoor art display. As the plan took root, Mayor John Manchester pitched the project to all artistically inclined Greenbrier County high school students, but all comers were allowed to enter. City Hall would pony up the paint and the painting site, the mayor said, and the Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation stepped forward by offering the winner a $100 prize. Before the painting can begin, the piano must be cleaned and repaired, and then tuned by piano-tuner Maggie Jusiel. A heater will also be installed to keep the innards dry.
The piano-as-art will be unveiled at the 2016 Chocolate Festival in April. Three members of the Cultural Arts Round Table, serving as judges for the best design, have awarded the project to Greenbrier East High School senior Casielle Donahue.
Describing herself as a color-blind artist, Donahue says her inspirations come from an eclectic array of sources, such as the natural world, household objects, man-made structures, cartoons and video games.
“I have been drawing for about seven years. I am in love with the simple things that make up the world,” she said, “but, I enjoy taking them and putting my own spin or twist on them.”
Donahue, whose painting medium is acrylics, has come up with a stunning design incorporating a black and white monochromatic arrangement of the most famous constellations in our galaxy, mingling a profusion of familiar star patterns as Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Corona Borealis, Auriga, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Perseus, Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Pegasus and a few others lesser known. The face and center front portion of the piano will feature constellations in bright pastel colors on an indigo/black background. The side panels will flip the background to white to showcase the stars in indigo/black, “to create a stark contrast between the visual body and bridge aesthetic of the piano,” writes Donahue in her design presentation.
Donahue plans to continue her art studies after she graduates, having been accepted to study studio art at Michigan State University in Lansing, MI.
When Donahue has completed her design, and the piano is unveiled at the Chocolate Festival, it will remain as her signature art piece for three years or until major maintenance is needed.