To celebrate the 100th birthday of Gordon Parks, our students painted a mural of his life on a grand piano. We wanted to create an interactive sculpture that could act as a constant reminder of the incredible life of our namesake, and our commitment to preserving/promoting his legacy through the students who graduate from our school.
Inspired by the "Keys for Kids" project in St. Paul, we purchased a Baldwin grand piano from St. Olaf University. With assistance from our wood shop and art teachers (Steve Wendt, Randy Starr, Tim Stowman) we sanded down the piano and prepared it for painting.
Jesse Golfis, an artist with experience painting pianos, mentored the students and was a guide for the entire process. During the process hundreds of GPHS students added their own artistic contributions, and a core group of about seven students worked on the piano for several days each week.
We unveiled the piano at a birthday celebration we hosted at our school. In addition to numerous community members and parents, special guests included Richard Roundtree (the actor who played Shaft in Parks most famous film), Robin Hickman (grand niece of Gordon Parks) and Bobby Hickman (nephew of Gordon Parks).
Now that the birthday is behind us, the piano is played every day by students. You can hear it throughout our building, adding to the atmosphere and vibe of the school.