Program in Colorado repurposes old, donated pianos to inspire spontaneous music

Fort Collins Art Project Paints The Town
Posted at 3:03 PM, Jul 05, 2022

All around Old Town Square in Fort Collins, Colorado, people can can find art, galleries and sculptures.

The artwork is easy to see, and even easier to hear.

“It’s very, very active,” said Liz Good, visual arts coordinate for the City of Fort Collins. “There’s loud music, just people walking by, playing their own music.”

The music is like a map, directing people towards the source. Once they find it, it doesn’t look like they pictured it.

The City of Fort Collins started Pianos About Town about 12 years ago, inspired by an art installation in New York at the time. The program repurposes used and donated pianos, then places the instruments around town.

“It creates an opportunity for people to enjoy local art and spontaneous music,” Good said.

The city, in partnership with other local stakeholders, selected 13 artists this year to paint the pianos. One at a time, artists will paint a piano, then that piano will end up at a predetermined location somewhere in Fort Collins.

Among the 13 people selected this year, only one is a returning artist. CM Canino painted the second to last piano last year. This year, he’s the first artist to paint.

“It's a public piece of art. And that, essentially, you get to connect with people through my art,” Canino explained. “Then ultimately, when it's done, it kind of becomes transformative, and how people play it.”

Canino isn’t a musician unless you count the time he used to DJ. Painting pianos is his way of mixing his two passions — art and performance — together.

Artists get two weeks to paint their pianos. Canino has adapted his strategy after last year. He says the key is to pace yourself — don’t do too much too early, and don’t wait until the last minute.

His inspiration for his piano piece is a blend of different art styles, showcasing bright colors in order to spread happy feelings. However, the design, much like the music being played, is left to the audience to interpret.

“It's not the song, it's how you play it. So, you know, even though this is vibrant, if you played a sad tune on it, it might read as a little bit sad,” Canino said. “That's the transformative element about the piano project that I really appreciate.”

The City has selected 20 different locations for the pianos, but does not plan to promote them to keep the art and music spontaneous, almost like a treasure hunt.

“People love music, and they love creating music and hearing people create music. And it's just this opportunity for somebody totally not expecting to do it, to walk up, see a piano and just play amazing music,” Good said.

This story was originally reported by Josh Whitston on