Sue MacVeety of Sheffield paints her spinet with a first coat of primer to prepare it for painting a flowery landscape to evoke her bucolic town. The piano will be on display this summer before being auctioned with others in August.
Keith Bona checks out his piano at Memorial School.
ADAMS, Mass. — More than a dozen pianos are being transformed into singular artworks to evoke the county's musical and artistic heritage.
Dirty, dusty and out of tune, these castoffs found new partners as local artists tramped through the empty Memorial School last Tuesday to select the perfect piano for their endeavors.
Sue MacVeety of Sheffield had come prepared with primer, covering her selection with its first base coat of white. Keith Bona of North Adams picked a large upright and was planning out a celestial concept and figuring how he might use the frame-like back.
"This would be cool if we did it with a galaxy motif and do pictures here ... they look like frames for something," said Bona.
The piano meetup was hosted by the Adams Arts Advisory Board, with artists selecting their keyboards on a first come, first served basis. Three rooms were opened in the school where the artists will be able to paint and otherwise enhance their pieces.
"Each community will stage events once they're placed in their community," said Richard Tavelli, in between guiding artists between the rooms. The participating artists were invited, with the Adams board, since it was hosting the event, selecting two.
The instruments will be scattered across the county at participating venues this summer in a collaborative celebration of the Berkshire Summer of Music and famed conductor and pianist Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday.
The transformed keyboards -- freshly tuned -- will be on display from July 18 through Aug. 25 and will be the focus of several pop-up concerts with local pianists.
At the end of the exhibition, they will be auctioned off with proceeds to benefit programming at Berkshire Music School.
Each artwork has a host venue, mostly libraries, and are being funded by local cultural councils. There's a long list of collaborators ranging from public libraries to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with All-Ways Moving Co. the major sponsor (it's moving all the pianos for free) and Greylock Federal Credit Union the corporate sponsor.
"I think it's sharing the wonderful 'Summer of Music' with the entire county," said Tracy Wilson, executive director of the Berkshire Music School. "We're connecting with the theme of the reading programs in the libraries, also double connecting with the Leonard Bernstein 100th anniversary of his birth. ...
"We wanted to get connected as the Berkshire Music School because Leonard Bernstein played a piano recital for us in 1942. It's just a perfect connection."
MacVeety had lucked out in finding a small acrosconic that she expected would save her time from driving 90 minutes away.
"It's a kind of little spinet piano and I have the exact same piano in my house," she said. "So I can do drawings and sketches and things with the exact measurements of the same piano."
Her piano will go on display at the Bushnell-Sage Library in Sheffield that is currently exhibiting her paintings celebrating local farms, "Boogie in the Barnyard."
"They asked me to do something similar," MacVeety said. "Flowers and chickens and a mountain view so it fits in with Sheffield. I'm trying to fit in Mumbet and the Shay's Rebellion stone as well."
Bona was disappointed a day later when he discovered the piano he picked out hadn't come from the late state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi's estate. It will still, however, be exhibited at the North Adams Public Library.
"The music school gets calls all the time about pianos that families don't want, don't need anymore," Wilson said. "Rather than me saying no, I'm sorry, they have another life. Everybody whose donated these pianos, when I told them the story of what was going to happen they loved it. ...
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