Downtown’s new Art Ovation Hotel is becoming known for its “art-centric environment,” where guests can explore exhibits including paintings, sculptures and photography. On Monday night, May 21, the hotel partnered with the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County to welcome a new Sarasota Keys piano that will reside outside the hotel for everyone to enjoy.

Laurie Maves, an abstract artist with a master’s degree in art therapy, was asked by the cultural curator of the Art Ovation to paint the Sarasota Keys piano. The hotel features an “Art in Residence” program where artists can showcase their artwork in the lobby. Maves joined the program during the hotel’s opening week and worked on three paintings; the first, Salt Life, became the design for the piano.

As for the artist’s inspiration, Maves says her creativity is always a mystery since she works in an intuitive way. “I think a lot of my work is from a genuine place; it’s coming from music in my head and from other thoughts,” she says. “To hear music flow from this painted instrument is a cool way to share creative expression art in a collaborative way.”

Sarasota Keys is an interactive public art project that combines visual arts and performance arts by having painted pianos available for the public to play in downtown Sarasota. The project was created by the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County six years ago, according to executive director Jim Shirley.

Sarasota city commissioners wanted to start an art program that involved citizens. The idea of using pianos sprang up when a Sarasota city commissioner saw a public piano at one of the parks in New York City.

Shirley says it took five weeks to acquire used pianos from Pritchard’s Pianos, find local artists to paint them and sponsors. He found host businesses whose job it was to keep the piano outside during the day for enjoyment and inside at nighttime. There are currently three existing Sarasota Keys pianos: one at Clasico Café and Bar, one at the Exchange (formerly the Woman’s Exchange), and the new one at the Art Ovation Hotel.

“It has worked out to be a beautiful program,” Shirley says. “People love to play, donate and every now and then complain about the noise, but to see the different people over the years play these pianos is just a great experience.”

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