LOCKPORT – Many communities have offered themed public art programs, with the decorated bisons of the Herd About Buffalo effort of a few years ago being the best known local example.
But less common are places where the art has turned to music.
Lockport businesswoman Ellen Martin has cooked up an idea to fill the city’s business district with music and attractive art this summer.
Starting June 21, several businesses will have pianos set up outside their doors. The donated pianos, mostly uprights, will have been painted or otherwise decorated, but they also will be available for anyone who wants to tickle the ivories.
“The idea is, come and stroll and play,” said Linda Van Buskirk, executive director of the Market Street Art Center.
It’s called Sweet Harmony, and it’s part of Martin’s “Sweet Sweet Summer” series of events.
“I think it’s a cool, innovative idea,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker said. “Ellen has come up with some innovative ideas, good ways to promote our community.”
“I’m viewing it as bringing business and life to downtown,” Martin said.
Martin might be trying to trademark the word “sweet.” She is the owner of Sweet Sixteen Cafe and Sweet Ride Rentals, a bicycle rental business.
“I’m just viewing it as part of an overall theme for the summer,” she said.
Her other ideas include “Sweet Dreams,” a chalkboard on which citizens will be able to draw or write about their dreams; the “Sweet Chalk Festival,” a weekend of sidewalk art drawn in chalk; and “Sweet Idea,” which opened the season earlier this month.
An 8-by-12-foot chalkboard was attached to the outside wall of City Hall, starting May 6, and citizens were invited to complete the sentence: “I’m important to Lockport because I …”
Responses, written in blue, pink or yellow chalk, included, “I help my grandma,” “Get rid of drug dealers,” and “Contribute to the downtown economy.”
“My staff and I built the chalkboard. It’s not as pretty as the art people would have made it,” Martin said.
Sweet Dreams will run for a week, starting July 6. The chalk festival is set for the weekend of Aug. 17 and 18. Both will be held on Canal Street.
Meanwhile, donated pianos for Sweet Harmony are being stored at Market Street Art Center, until they are collected by sponsors for painting. Sponsors, who pay $350 each, may do as they wish with the piano after the Sweet Harmony event ends Aug. 18, which is the date of the annual Taste of Lockport restaurant promotion in Ida Fritz Park.
The $350 include the price of moving and tuning the piano, which is being handled by Thomas Miller of Miller Piano, a Lockport business.
“We’re only doing a dozen. I think we could do it every year. It has the potential to be a long-running public art project,” Martin said.
Sponsors so far include the Niagara County Bar Association, which plans to place a piano in front of the County Courthouse; Lake Effect Ice Cream; J. Fitzgerald Group; J. Muscato Interiors; McCollum Farms; and Old City Hall. Martin’s businesses and the Market Street Art Center also will have pianos.
Piano sponsors may hire an artist from the Market Street Art Center’s roster to help them paint the instrument.
“You can get very creative and do all kinds of things with them,” Van Buskirk said.
The Common Council voted Wednesday to give formal permission for Sweet Harmony, Sweet Dreams and the Sweet Chalk Festival.