All photos by Ken Ketchie
Pedestrians in Banner Elk now have music to stroll by thanks to the “Go Ahead, Play Me” public art project. Six pianos placed throughout downtown encourage passersby to take a minute and tickle the ivories.
The Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce worked with Lees-McRae College to present the project, which debuted Saturday, July 9, and will continue for approximately a month.
All pianos are located outdoors. Locations include Hayes Auditorium at Lees-McRae College, Dunn’s Deli, Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce, Banner Elk Cafe, the courtyard near Sorrento’s Italian Bistro and the field in front of the Historic Banner Elk School.
Lees-McRae students and local area residents painted the pianos, giving each one a colorful design.
Tom McMurray, husband of Chamber president Jo-Ann McMurray, found inspiration for the project online. He came across a similar project in large cities like New York and Chicago, spurring the McMurrays to replicate the concept in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Not knowing where to turn, they put out a call for pianos and were pleased to acquire six. Three were donated and three were purchased.
“You’d be surprised how many people will give you a piano,” Jo-Ann McMurray says.
Tom McMurray found tuning software online that works with a computer. When he told the company what it was for, the company donated the software. The Banner Elk Tourism Development Authority provided covers to protect the pianos at night and during bad weather.
“One of my goals is to bring art to Banner Elk,” Jo-Ann McMurray says. “We have Lees-McRae College and the theater; a lot of students study art here. The arts can be a positive direction for this little town.”
To learn more about the “Go Ahead, Play Me” project and see a map of piano locations, visit www.BannerElk.org.