NEW ALBANY — After several weeks of back-and-forth, the launch of a Facebook page in support of the project and even the creation of an art piece jesting at the entire process, the city approved a request Tuesday to allow the placement of a street piano in front of Jimmy's Music Center.
The piano will be allowed at the location, which is near the intersection of Market and Pearl streets, for six weeks beginning Labor Day. New Albany resident and Community Montessori teacher Hannegan Roseberry pushed for the art project after one of her students painted and decorated a piano for the purpose of installing it in a public space.
Roseberry touted the project as a creative, low-expense entertainment and art piece for downtown. But city officials cited concerns over liability, noise and whether the piano could be installed in a historic district without additional approval from other boards.
Roseberrry expressed her frustration with delays in response from the city about the project in a column printed by the News and Tribune. Other members of the community also took issue with the city's delay in approving the street piano.
A "Free the New Albany Street Piano" Facebook page was created, and it had more than 260 likes as of Tuesday. New Albany artist Michael Wimmer — who has been critical of Mayor Jeff Gahan's administration over allowing public art work — even built a piano sculpture that he wheeled downtown in front of the City-County Building Tuesday as a sign of protest against the city for delaying the project.
The piano sculpture had messages written on it including "Free the Street Piano" and "It's just a piano...not a two way street."
Wimmer said he was inspired to make the piano art piece after following "all the problems [Roseberry] was going through."
"You're only talking about six weeks," he said of the requested time period to allow the piano.
New Albany City Councilman Greg Phipps also asked the board of works to approve the request.
"It's an out-of-the-box idea I think New Albany needs more of," he told the board members.
But Warren Nash, president of the board of works, stood by his previous remarks Tuesday when he said the city had concerns about liability, and whether Jimmy's Music Center would be OK with allowing the piano to be placed in front of the business.
The owner of Jimmy's Music Center appeared before the board Tuesday and confirmed his business would cover the piano under its liability insurance. He also gave the city his blessing to allow the piano in front of his shop.
Roseberry and Jimmy's Music Center had to agree to a legal document from the city basically clarifying responsibility and maintenance for the piano. Shane Gibson, an attorney with the city's legal department, said New Albany has dealt with legal issues in the past after people were injured on an art piece placed on public property.
He said the board may be asked to clarify the process for public art installations in the next few weeks by voting on rules.
"I think that's part of the problem now — we don't have a formal policy for art in the right-of-way," Gibson said.
Though garnering approval took several weeks, Roseberry said she was pleased all parties could come to an agreement.
"It feels like a very big win for creativity in New Albany," she said.