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Painted pianos a highlight from Music for Peace week

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Phoenix High School art students Brianna Wilson and Jazmyne Broussard were painting an octopus on a sea-foam-colored piano Friday, their part in a multifaceted collaboration that is producing decorated pianos that will benefit the local community and offers a weeklong series of events during a Music for Peace celebration in Ashland from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7.

“It’s taken a big team of artists and helpers. A piano is a lot of canvas ... and it is physically more awkward,” said Ethan Gans-Morse of Anima Mundi Productions, a Phoenix nonprofit that put together the events. The effort builds on work by Malek Jandali, who founded the Pianos for Peace movement in Atlanta and will perform in concert Oct. 6 in the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall.

“I kind of volunteered. I’ve never worked on a piano before,” said Wilson. Painting team members came up with an underwater theme and will include a mermaid, a coral reef, a school of fish and other ocean species.

“I’ve always loved octopi. It’s been one of my favorite animals to paint and draw,” said Broussard. Teacher Jessica Rollins selected four motivated students from her advanced art class, including Yesenia Alvarez and Lesdi Castaneda, to do the art work.

The city of Phoenix has agreed to find a spot for one of the pianos in a public building, while the other will be donated to a public school yet to be selected, said Gans-Morse. There were numerous offers of pianos, but the organization decided to take on just two for its initial effort.

Phoenix artist Judy Grillo did prep work and base painting on both pianos. She collaborated with Gans-Morse’s wife, Tiziana DellaRovere, in painting the one piano that features a koi pond with lotus flowers on top and calla lilies, peonies, butterflies, insects, a frog and a kitten elsewhere.

“I came up with the idea of a garden piano because people find peace in nature and gardens,” DellaRovere wrote in an email. “Judy and I worked very well together because our artistic styles are compatible and we are both dedicated to using art as a vehicle to make the world a better place.”

“I’ve got a lot of passion for art and helping the community. I love it. I jumped right on it,” said Grillo, who arranged for the city of Phoenix to move the piano to the high school from her garage.

Events in Ashland Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 include:

  • Display of the two painted pianos, which the public can play. One will be located at the corner of S. Main and S. Pioneer streets, and the other will be near the playground in Lithia Park.
  • A brief musical program by Jandali, Michael Silversher and the Rogue Valley Peace Choir at the Thalden Pavilion on Walker Ave., at 3:30 p.n. Wednesday, Oct. 2
  • From 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Havurah Shir Hadash Synagogue, 185 N. Mountain Ave. Jandali will speak about creating peace through music and his efforts to preserve Syria’s musical heritage.
  • Jandali will be interviewed on the Jefferson Exchange JPR radio show from 8 to 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 3.
  • Peace House, 543 S. Mountain Ave., will host a discussion from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, on “Overcoming War’s Impact on Cultures”

Except for Jandali’s Sunday concert, all events are free. Support for the free events has come from Sarah and Bill Epstein and the Jackson County Cultural Coalition of the Oregon Cultural Trust.

Jandali’s Sunday performance marks the start of a new concert series by Anima Mundi, which will also have events in January and April. The latter will offer a piece composed by Gans-Morse, with poetry by DellaRovere.

“Our mission is to produce new works of music and concerts that address urgent social issues,” said Gans-Morse. The nonprofit has presented works elsewhere in Oregon and collaborated with other Rogue Valley arts organization since its beginning in 2014.

“We’d love for it to become an annual event in the Rogue Valley. We need to see how it goes in the first year,” said Gans-Morse.

Full details of the Pianos for Peace effort, including videos, can be found at www.animamundiproductions.com/p4p. Details about the concert series are at www.humanitytickets.com.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Phoenix high school seniors Brianna Wilson and Jazmyne Broussard work on painting a piano that will be place in Ashland for the community to use.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Phoenix high school seniors Brianna Wilson and Jazmyne Broussard work on painting a piano that will be place in Ashland for the community to use.