A civic-pride group has delivered the keys to the city via an upright piano.

A civic-pride group has delivered the keys to the city via an upright piano.

Make Gahanna Yours, a nonprofit led by Becky Kneeland, wife of Gahanna Mayor Tom Kneeland, had painted pianos placed in the Creekside district for anyone to play.

Kneeland said she had seen the "Keys to the City" idea in Lancaster, and it has been a work in progress for her group since then.

She said Gahanna Parks & Recreation's Shannon Sorrell had the idea, too, but it hadn't struck a chord with others.

Kneeland enlisted the help of Gahanna's Art Garden Studios, 98 Granville St., to paint the donated pianos.

Juli Hess, studio owner, said her business develops artists, and she felt honored when Kneeland called on her creative assistance.

"This is my community," Hess said. "When I opened the studio, it was to have a home for kids who wanted to belong somewhere when baseball and soccer fields weren't their place."

She said the studio is home to about 180 youths from all over central Ohio, including Gahanna, Johnstown, Pataskala and Pickerington.

"We teach fine arts and have summer camps," she said. "We have open art times. Most classes are guided."

Hess said a piano is just another canvas.

She and some of her students painted three pianos June 27 at a city storage facility Price Road.

Twelve-year-old Anna Aldis painted an herb-themed piano with rosemary, the official herb of Gahanna, and ladybugs, as did Samme Molino.

Aldis, a Gahanna Middle School South student, said "Herb Capital of Ohio" would be painted across the piano.

"These will be in Creekside, and I (can say) I painted that," she said.

Hartley student April Finch was painting an eagle on an upright piano.

"I've been at the art studio since kindergarten, and I'm 16 years old," she said. "This is very different than a canvas. It's something you don't get to do every day."

Pickerington's Sarah Arp enjoyed painting and playing the upright piano.

"It's interesting painting a piano," she said. "It has been a good experience and pretty fun."

Gahanna Middle School South's Emely Burkhart said she always uses her body as a palette because the paint washes off.

She was helping paint the patriotic-themed piano last week, along with Neha Badam.

A blues-and-jazz-themed piano shows the handprints of Kneeland, Hess, Snook Bates (a member of Make Gahanna Yours) and Reena Renner, mother of Gahanna City Council president Stephen Renner.

Hess also painted a guitar on the side of the piano.

Kneeland said she hopes everyone would enjoy the pianos, whether it's a child playing chopsticks or an adult playing Chopin.

The public is invited to tickle the ivories and share their experience on social media with hash tag #yourkeystothecity.

The Keys to the City is intended to build on the idea of inspiring music and creativity in an urban environment through revisiting the public-piano concept in a way that's uniquely supported by Gahanna community organizations, Kneeland said.

Each piano has a bench, and passersby are invited to play between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla