Unique piano a key part of Katy Depot display

June 2, 2010

A Sedalia worker has taken what he does for a living and turned it into art.

Mike Anderson, a 29-year-old laborer and executive committee union member at Pittsburgh Corning, has sculpted a piano using Foamglas, a cellular glass insulation manufactured at the plant.

The piano, which is on display at the Katy Depot, is part of the “Pianos on Parade” event celebrating Sedalia’s 150th anniversary. Deb Biermann, executive vice-president of the Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce said the event is a partnership with the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art to promote the area as an art-enthusiastic destination.

Biermann said she contacted several local businesses and organizations to ask if they would be interested in decorating an upright piano. Pittsburgh Corning, Sacred Heart School and the Sedalia Visual Arts Association agreed to take part in the event.

The Sedalia Visual Arts Association is partnering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri to complete their piano. The chamber is hoping to continue to grow the project over the years and has several upright pianos available to decorate at no cost.

“We want to encourage local businesses to take part in this,” she said.

Bobbie Cowan, senior administrative assistant at Pittsburgh Corning, said employees opted to create a piano instead of decorate one. Cowan said the finished product weighed more than 400 pounds.

Anderson, who has been with the company for 10 years, said Cowan approached him about making the sculpture because she had seen his drawings in the past.

“I have a strong passion for art,” Anderson said, “but time keeps it as a hobby.”

While Anderson agreed to attempt the project, he said he wasn’t entirely confident about the outcome.

“I’m always up for a challenge,” he said. “But I couldn’t make any promises.”

Anderson enlisted the help of two co-workers to begin the art project. J.R. Greer took a picture of an upright piano at his church and got the instrument’s dimensions. Jimmy Stone helped assemble the base.

“We built the base at work on our own time,” Anderson said. “Then I loaded it on a trailer and finished it in my garage at home.”

Once the unfinished piano was in place at Anderson’s house, he began putting the finishing touches on it by using a carving knife to create the detailing.

“Carving the details was difficult,” he said. “I didn’t want to mess up.”

He then spray-enameled the piano brown and added realistic-looking, gold foot pedals and white and black keys.

“I counted and recounted those keys,” Anderson said. “I checked and double checked the placement.”

Anderson said adding the keys was his favorite part of the project, which took 50 hours to complete, because it made the sculpture “pop.”

“That was like the icing on the cake,” he said.

Although Anderson had never used cellular for an art project before, he said he was pleased with the end result.

According to Biermann, the pianos will be on display at the Katy Depot throughout the sesquicentennial event.