Street pianos return to downtown Columbia

Despite the noise complaints, CoMo street pianos are back.

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Drawing inspiration from the cover art of one of her favorite rappers, senior Lucy Mulvihill painted a giraffe wearing headphones on the side panels of a new Columbia street piano. The giraffes, as well as ivy and scenes of space, represent different aspects of her life.

Last summer, the Columbia Piano Technicians Guild brought two pianos to the streets of downtown Columbia. The donated instruments were placed outside Teller’s on East Broadway and The Heidelberg on Ninth Street. Though complaints from neighbors caused the pianos’ run to end a week earlier than planned, the instruments are returning for a second summer season.

This time around, the pianos will change locations every month out of respect for business and property owners. The rotation will also allow for the music to reach new audiences. Eventually, there will be two, but for now there’s only one in commission.

The first of the season’s pianos appeared outside of the Fine Arts Building on campus April 13 as part of a celebration for the pianos’ return.

This newly donated instrument was painted by Mulvihill, who jumped at the opportunity to become involved in the project after hearing the music school was looking for an artist.

“I didn't plan what I was going to draw beforehand, and I only had about four days to paint it, so I basically just dove head-first into the project not knowing what the end result would be,” Mulvihill says. “It's more fun that way.”

The piano’s front panels and legs are covered in painted ivy because of the plant’s presence at Mulvihill’s childhood home. The rest of the piano is a night sky with planets and stars because of her interest in astronomy. The giraffes cover the sides.

“The giraffes also both have the state of Missouri hidden in their spots, but I'm almost positive that nobody has noticed,” Mulvihill said in an email. “It's sort of a Where's Waldo.”

Mulvihill’s favorite aspect of her involvement was simply contributing to the project’s overall goal. The street piano project takes pianos that would otherwise be thrown away and gives them another chance.

“Music and art bring people together,” Mulvihill says. “We need more of both in this world. Simply put, the pianos bring people joy. I think that it's important to smile at the little things in life, so I wanted to leave Columbia knowing I did something that would make people happy.”

The people of Columbia have already celebrated the pianos’ return by cranking out tunes daily to people who walk on Lowry Mall.

The piano is set to move to The Heidelberg on May 6 to officially kick off the instruments’ downtown rotation.

Edited by Katie Rosso | krosso@themaneater.com

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