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Aims Fall Semester Starts on a High Note with Piano Project

Public pianos, also known as public art or street pianos, have popped up in unexpected locations worldwide. These public pianos encourage people to tap the keys and create a communal musical experience for those passing by. Often these pianos are also visual statements as artists paint murals onto the instruments.

Aims student leaders at with a painted piano on campus

This magical merging of art and music has enthralled people in French train stations, Heathrow Airport in London, Seattle parks, and the 16th Street Mall in Denver. On August 25, 2022, the Aims Community College Greeley Campus is joining the list of places on the planet with delightfully decorated outdoor pianos. 

“Socially, music unites people. It is a universal language without borders: the note C is always the note C, no matter where you are from, no matter your race or ethnicity, and I think that’s beautiful.” Those are the words of Andrew Kaneta, Aims 2022 graduate and former
Student Government Association (SGA) President who established an initiative to place painted pianos on the Aims Greeley campus.

“Music is the perfect outward expression of the inward values of Aims: acceptance, care, support, encouragement, inclusivity, and community.”

Kaneta pitched the idea of the public pianos in fall of 2021, and Aims student organizations and departments passionately took on the initiative. The SGA team first approved it, and the project has also had the steadfast support of Student Life advisors, Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), and the Campus Activities Programming Board (CAP). “Andrew's extraordinary efforts in bringing this project to life has brought a team of creative and artistic students together to further beautify an already beautiful campus,” Janet Chase, Director of Student Life

Once the project gained institutional, student and staff support, Kaneta conducted some research to ensure the project was properly planned and designed. An essential piece was connecting with Liz Good, the director of the Pianos About Town project in Fort Collins, and learning about their processes and procedures to put into practice at Aims. 

The next step was to obtain the pianos for the project. The team posted on social media, asking people and organizations to donate pianos they no longer used. Aims received three pianos.  Donations came from the Salzano family, the Merk family, and the Beth Israel Congregation in Greeley. 

Once Kaneta graduated, he passed the torch to current student leaders, Stepfanie Thompson, SGA Vice President of SEIS (Student Engagement, Inclusion & Success) and SGA President Danielle Irwin. The new team's primary objective was to add color and flair to the pianos over the summer.

A student artist team developed themes, planned out the designs and painted the pianos. Thompson was thrilled to pick up this project and lead the student artist team. “I have been absolutely blown away by the talent and dedication of our student artists. They have been coming in for a collective ten to 20 hours every week, even on weekends, around established work and class schedules.”  

The art team included Aims students Azi Stiles, Cynthia Aguiar, Grace Stevens, Zared Rodriguez, Aria Barrera and Emily Clemmons. The leadership team added detail work to the pianos. Those students included Andrew Kaneta, Stepfanie Thomson, Danielle Irwin, Jared Polito and Jeff Thatch.

The pianos will be fun and colorful additions to the campus, each with a different theme: Colorado outdoors and mythology. The team announced that there are several hidden aardvarks in the artwork on both pianos. From Aug. 25 through Sept. 2, students can put the number of aardvarks they find with their name and email into a prize drawing in the Student Life office on the Greeley Campus. 

The purpose of the painted outdoor pianos is to bring people on campus together to connect in new ways. By that measure, it's already successful as it brought together the project team. “Previous to collaborating on this project, the students were unknown to each other,” Chase said. “Since coming together to brainstorm and create their collective vision for the artwork, they have bonded and formed a unique connection. From my perspective, students finding connections at Aims is my ultimate aim in my role in Student Life.”

This project was a labor of love for the students involved, but Aims staff also were engaged in meaningful ways. Aims employees in the Facilities and Operations Department, Mike Millsapps, David Mondt and Kevin Cross, provided full project support. The team organized and managed the delivery, storing and placing of the pianos in the locations outside the Student Commons. Chase recognized this support, saying, “This project would have been impossible without the extra work and the selfless service of Mike, David, and Kevin.”

Kaneta wants to see more Aims piano projects moving forward. “I hope future SGA teams continue to perpetuate the program and expand to the other Aims campuses. I hope that the public piano project brings greater unity and connection to the students, faculty, staff, and every other member of the Aims family.”

It seems like he will get his wish, as the painted piano team is working on a third piano to be completed this school year. Students will soon receive  information on applying to be an artist.

Attend the Unveiling
Aims will reveal the pianos on Thursday, Aug.25, outside the Student Commons. The unveiling of the piano on the west side of the building will be at 9 a.m. Aims will reveal the east side piano at 2 p.m. Attendees will be served a special Arty's Spirit Sparkler created by Arty’s Bistro in collaboration with SGA. The student artists will be recognized and answer questions about their inspiration and process.