The Foundation at Lake Charles Memorial Health System recently completed the nine month-long “Keys for Kids” project of restoring and painting pianos for distribution to public and private elementary schools. Each of the pianos were painted with scenes from beloved children’s books, movies and nursery rhymes.

Some of the instruments date back to 1901, Leif Pederson, senior vice president of philanthropy, said.

“The whole idea in my mind was you plant the seed of creativity,” he said. “You take a piece of art, which was a piano, and you convert that to another piece of art, which is a painted piano that you could look at.”

Pederson said the idea came to him last year after watching a CBS news story about pianos placed in Central Park in New York City.

“My wife said, ‘Wouldn’t that be a cool program for the students?’”

He said he began researching how to collect used pianos when he was referred to Hall Piano Company in Metarie. Hall offered its out-of-commission pianos to the foundation happily, Pederson said, because pianos are incredibly difficult to dispose of.

“You can’t just bring them to a dump. You have to tear them apart because strings go one place, the metal and iron goes some place else,” he said.

Pederson initially brought a stock of 10 working pianos back to the city with no artists lined up. He said as he shared his “Keys for Kids” idea with foundation board and community members, volunteers rallied around the idea.

Over time, an additional 20 pianos were donated from around Southwest Louisiana with local artists, students and hospital employees donating their time to the design work. The pianos are free to view and will be on display in the hospital’s atrium until April 28.

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