ROYAL OAK, Mich. – Sterling Oil and Chemical partnered with Jason Gittinger – chairman of the Royal Oak Commission of the Arts and owner of Detroit School of Rock and Pop – to place donated painted pianos around the city of Royal Oak.
“This project has been far more successful than I could ever have imagined,” Gittinger explains. “It reaches people from all over the region and all over the world. There isn’t a day that goes by that someone doesn’t reach out to us and share interesting videos of people playing the pianos or enjoying them. It’s beyond anything we could have imagined.”
Gittinger began the program in 2016 as a pilot project that has now returned for the fourth year. The pianos are moved by ProfessionalMovers.com. They also hosted the first ever Paint the Pianos Day, where kids and families head to their facility in Walled Lake, Mich. to decorate the pianos. This year, the artists met on May 19 in Royal Oak at the city’s middle school for Royal Oak Celebration of the Arts.
The Royal Oak community has responded, showing the pianos respect as they are played throughout the day by passerby’s and local workers in the area. “It has reached so many people and made so many smile, it is amazing,” Gittinger says with a smile.
Gittinger grew up with a father who was a professional musician and registered piano technician. Pianos played a large role during his youth, “Each day before school, I’d be in his workshop helping him with pianos that were there to be fixed. Saturdays was “piano moving day” for my brother, father and I. It was a big part of my childhood. My father passed away almost 20 years ago, but if he knew we were taking used pianos that would end up in a land fill, and giving them a great send off on the streets I think he would get a real kick out of it.”
In 2017, James Kirzan – assistant to the city manager – told the Daily Review in Royal Oak, “It’s been really popular. There’s been a lot of feedback and even City Commission Sharlan Douglass went and played the piano.”
This year, with the help of Sterling, the pianos were given their fresh look on “Paint Day.” They supplied the paint and art supplies for the event that engaged 40 people to prep and paint the pianos before they were taken to the streets. Eddleston, according to Gittinger, has spawned a Piano in the Park project for the City of Birmingham. Sterling is the primary sponsor for that project.
“Sterling Oil’s leadership cares deeply about the arts and we couldn’t ask for a better partner,” Gittinger said.