Over the summer, Walnut Creek Downtown selected 10 artists to participate in the project “Painted Piano.” Donated by Steinway Piano Gallery, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and Piano Mover, the 10 painted pianos were placed throughout downtown Walnut Creek. For the public art project, Walnut Creek Downtown selected Las Lomas senior Ally McKay, who had a piano placed at the intersection of Locust and Bonanza Street.
“I was contacted by the city, but I believe most of the other artists had to apply,” said McKay. “I had done some artwork for the Big Belly trash cans around town and they loved my art for that. And I also face paint at some downtown events, so I had met some of the organizers and people on the downtown association so they reached out to ask me about painting a piano. A piano is a big upgrade from a trash can, so of course I said yes!”
Before McKay painted the piano downtown, she had to prepare for what she was going to make. “I did have to make two mock ups for the piano, one for each variety of piano that would be painted since I didn’t know which I’d get,” said McKay. “I had a couple versions and different color schemes, but I eventually landed on my final design. That was then officially approved by the organizers, and I got to start buying materials for the project.”
Located across the street from McKay’s piano is Steinway Piano Gallery, one of the project donors. The manager of the Walnut Creek Steinway Piano Gallery, Justin Levitt, initiated the project. “We donated a combination of upright and baby grand pianos of all ages and sizes,” said Levitt. “We’re planning on doing this again in the spring with the city of Walnut Creek.”
Aside from her work on the Painted Piano project and Big Belly trash cans, McKay has worked on other public art projects. Her first project was Pleasonton’s “Project Paint Box,” where she painted one of its utility boxes. “I then had my art put on some of the trash cans around town, then I di d the piano, and I’m currently working on a couple more murals. I am also a studio assistant at Rebel Art School, I do the promotional materials for a local charity and I run an afterschool art program for middle schoolers,” said McKay. “Other than my big projects, I’m always working on small paintings or studies in my sketchbook.”
Moving forward, McKay has planned more projects, including a children’s book. “The one that I’m for sure doing is a new mural for Florali, a local flower shop. It will be painted on one of the exterior walls of the shop and feature a field of flowers and Mt. Diablo in the background. I hope to finish that project before December,” said McKay. “I am also working on holiday postcards for downtown Walnut Creek and have recently started face painting at more events throughout the Bay Area.”
Residents can look forward to the Painted Piano project returning in the spring. Based off its success and response, Levitt is optimistic for the project’s return next year. “It was an amazing experience to have so many pianos be available to so many people. The feedback I received was beautiful and I couldn’t be happier with the results.”