Funky Piano

Daniel Dye / The Herald

Shellie Whitfield paints a fish on the top of a piano that will be wheeled outside for the public to play.

Take a stroll through town this summer and you’re liable to hear the plunk of a piano.

If you happen to hear a pop song or a classical piece in downtown Wetumpka, your ears are not deceiving your senses — it’s just Wetumpka’s funky pianos.

From children striking random keys to a cover of a famed piano tune or possibly a virtuoso flawlessly playing, Wetumpka Area Chamber of Commerce director Shellie Whitfield said this project will place pianos outside the downtown area this summer. She hopes the project will be enjoyed by the community.

“I hope people come down and eat popsicles and play music and spend time with their families and shop,” Whitfield said. “What is Wetumpka? What we do is celebrate music and art and family and community. I’m all about bringing people downtown.”

Whitfield got the idea of the funky piano from her time living near Denver, Colorado.

“In Denver, they have these beautiful, upright pianos at 16th Street Mall,” she said. “They are all painted really funky and cool and people play.”

She said she mentioned the idea to Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis and one day soon after a piano was wheeled in to the chamber’s office building.

“I said to him we should get some pianos when the (downtown) streetscape is done and we can put them outside,” Whitfield said. “It was not just a hot minute later there was a piano wheeled in here at the chamber.”

Whitfield said she has an ally in Willis to see this idea come to fruition.

“He’s all about music and I’m all about art,” she said. “This is a fun celebration of music and art which it totally my jam and the mayor’s, too.”

Whitfield received the piano as a donation from Willis about a month ago and recently got to work stripping it down to bare wood.

“The piano is themed from the movie ‘Big Fish’ and hooked on Wetumpka,” she said as she painted a colorful fish. “On the back, I am going to put a quote from the movie.”

In addition to commemorating the movie via a piano, Whitfield said a sculpture made of hub caps will be displayed in the near future.

As for the funky piano project, Katie Martin of Wetumpka’s Market Shoppes is expected to release a second piano.

“Currently, I have a piano and Katie Russell has a piano she is working on,” Whitfield said. “She is super artistic. The point is to have pianos scattered across downtown.”

Whitfield said the chamber appreciated the efforts of Lowe’s supporting the project.

“Lowe’s is really about community and it has been a blessing to Wetumpka,” she said. “They helped out with the materials to paint the piano. This has been a collaborative thing. The city gives the chamber a piano and Lowe’s gives us the paint.” 

Whitfield said she and Willis are looking for more pianos that can be used for the project and hopes to wheel those out the sidewalks in the near future. 

“Hopefully we will have more pianos,” she said. “We are hopeful to have the pianos out sometime this summer for everyone to have fun.”