Playing in the Key of Art

Ten students, two library staffers and a whole lot of Elmer’s glue, newspaper, acrylic paint and spray paint went into a musical attraction that will soon sit outside the library.

IMG_3803A piano, complete with bench, is intended to be played and viewed as a work of art. Teens came in during weeknights in mid-July to paint and learn some art lessons from the lead artist on the project Christian Sauerman, a Washburn sophomore majoring in art.

Though he’s showed his works publicly, including some smaller mural projects, creating this public piano work of art was an invitation too big to resist, Sauerman said. Betsy, an Alice C. Sabatini Gallery curator and educator, saw potential in him to lead. Our Teen librarian Lena rounded up some high school students and a crew of artist assistants was assembled. Bryce Berberick, 9th grader at Topeka High, said this is something she’d expect at a music store not a library. She liked being part of a project that mixed music and art. The project was fun, but she said the gratifying part will come when someone sits down to use what she helped create.

The piano’s design, featuring a stylized bear on the back, was the brainchild of Sauerman, but everyone added something.

“This is not only my idea, but everyone else’s too,” he said. “But it’s a big opportunity for me to get my name out there. I’ve been telling friends, family and everybody. Everyone I’ve told is excited to see this work of art.”

IMG_3852Sauerman praised the dedication of teens, coming in before and after supper to learn, and have some fun. His lesson to teens as a college student: “Don’t expect to go through college sitting on the couch playing video games. You have to work for your dreams. And don’t just dream; follow through with it.”

The piano was donated by Susan Duffy of Topeka.

Right now we’re getting the piano tuned up. Check back with teen librarians or on for more information on when it will be installed and ready for your fingers. Or be on the look out for this colorful creation on the library’s southwest side.

About the Lead Artist Christian Sauerman
Chris is interested in contemporary art including street art and graphic design. His style combines text and imagery into a dynamic painted collage. He’s inspired by the works of Brooklyn graphic and street artist Faile. Sauerman teaches youth at the ArtLab at the Mulvane Art Museum and volunteered his time teaching library teens some painting techniques they’ll remember way beyond the piano project ends. The bright colors and innovative design should invite people to approach the piano, sit down and play.

Lisa is a former employee and shared the library story in many of her posts.

4 thoughts on “Playing in the Key of Art

  1. I have an old piano that is vintage. It has a dead sound board. I plan to make a desk out of it. It would be nice if some of your industrial arts students see what they can do with repurposing some pianos. Some have a beautiful finish to start with and would not be helped with painting. An old upright might be made into a desk and book shelf. Hope this stimulates some new thought for a common problem. Sincerely, Roger Stewart

  2. I love the circular inspiration here–from the library, via Betsy at the Sabatini, to Chris Sauerman at Washburn, to teens in the community, and now back to the library and all its patrons. It’s as if more and more people are being drawn into a sing-along around that old piano!

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