17-year-old hopes piano artwork inspires 'togetherness' in her East Bay community

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019
East Bay teen hopes piano artwork inspires 'togetherness'
In our efforts to building a better Bay Area, we have a story of a 17-year-old that you can say is "painting a better Bay Area."

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- In our efforts to building a better Bay Area, we have a story of a 17-year-old that you can say is "painting a better Bay Area."

The senior in High School was selected as one of 10 local artists who painted donated pianos that are now adorning downtown Walnut Creek.

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We met Ben Lee while he was teaching his one-year-old son Ethan how to play piano. The harmonies that are flowing from the public piano are the dream of local composer Justin Levitt.

"We donated 10 pianos to the city and together I've been working with them to find artists," said Levitt.

The pianos were donated by Steinway Piano Gallery, Piano mover, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

This summer, downtown Walnut Creek selected 10 local artists to be part of their pilot public art project "Painted Piano," each artist got a piano, brushes and paint.

"Some are floral theme as well as Mt. Diablo and then we have little floating pigs with musical notes," said Kathy Hemmenway with Downtown Walnut Creek.

The youngest solo artist selected for this project-- 17-year-old, Ally McKay.

"It's crazy because I remember seeing public art when you're a kid and thinking 'oh my gosh, that's so cool, someone painted that with their own hands.' Now, I'm that person and it's kind of crazy because, of course, they don't know and I'm sitting over there," said Ally.

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But, this is not the first time Ally has displayed her art around her neighborhood.

"In Pleasanton, I did a utility box. I did some art for the trashcans around Walnut Creek too, but this is a step up from my trash can," said Ally.

Her "Painted Piano" creation meant she had a bigger platform to spread a message of unity in her community.

When speaking about leaves in her painting she explained, "I was hoping they could represent leaves or pedals or footsteps and could represent the togetherness of the community all following and working as one," said Ally.

As strangers walked by; stopped, played and laughed we asked her-- Do you think you're building a better Bay Area? Or painting a better Bay Area?

"I really hope I'm painting a better Bay Area. I think it has brought the community together to talk about the pianos, to play on the pianos and it's a conversation starter," said Ally.

Her mom Sherry McKay says they always believed in her talent and added, "Let your kids follow what they're passionate about and committed and serious about and they will be successful."

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Ally says her new goal now is to illustrate a children's book.

All the pianos will remain in downtown Walnut Creek from September 3 to October 18.

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