Artist adds color to Hastings College piano

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HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Thanks to Beau Neville, Hastings College has maybe the most unique-looking piano in Nebraska.

For the past month, he has been painting the Knabe brand baby grand piano that is kept in the Hazelrigg Student Union cafeteria. Using interior latex paint, he is covering it with red, blue, green, orange and purple triangles, rhombuses and other geometric shapes.

“I didn’t want to do anything too literal,” Neville told the Hastings Tribune. “I wanted it to be really colorful and wanted to do a graphic approach. So it’s kind of like a geometric puzzle. Everybody on the Hastings College campus fits together to make up the HC family, but we’re all different, all special and unique.”

College custodians stripped the formerly black piano and pre-pared it for Neville with gray primer. It was the idea of Robin Koozer, chair of the college’s music department, that Neville paint the piano. Neville is a graduating senior from Alliance majoring in studio art.

Koozer was inspired after touring the Steinway and Sons piano factory in New York City during a recent January term class. Steinway commissions artists to personalize pianos for customers.

He was further inspired after reading about the Blue Dog Steinway piano painted by artist George Rodrigue and donated to the Louisiana State University School of Music.

“I knew we had this piano available and something needed to be done to it,” Koozer said. “I just thought of Beau. He’s very active in music. He’s a very fine artist and very creative and all the rest just happened.”

Neville has sung with the Hastings College Choir, the Men’s Choir and 1-2-5 men’s a cappella group.

He has never been trained in music outside of working in an ensemble. He just loves to sing.

“I was involved in the musicals in high school and wanted to continue singing in college, so I auditioned for college choir and joined men’s choir,” Neville said. “I was asked to be in 1-2-5 my sophomore year. I think there are many similarities between visual art and musical art. Often times, music will give me visual images and visual art will play a melody, also.”

He was familiar with the concept of painted pianos, having seen the ones at the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver.

“It was exciting, a really cool opportunity to leave something here in Hastings after I graduate,” he said.

Working on the piano since the beginning of April, after he completed his senior thesis exhibition, Neville often has an audience while painting in the Hazelrigg lobby.

“It’s easy to get distracted, but usually I’ll just keep painting and talk with people who come over and check it out,” he said. “A couple of people have asked to help. I let them paint a little bit but I’m a little particular about how things go, so I don’t let them do too much. It’s really fun to have that involvement and students walking through and seeing it.”

The piano is used during programs and banquets in the student union.

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