Piano shatters downtown window

Published 2:15 pm Monday, May 22, 2017

By Rebecca Rider and Shavonne Walker


SALISBURY — Organizers of a local public art installation are trying to figure out how to move forward after one of the pieces was tipped over, breaking a downtown store window early Monday morning.

The piece, one of the “Come Tickle Our Ivories” pianos scattered through downtown Salisbury, was found about 6 a.m. Monday tipped over in front of the window of the Pedal Factory on South Main Street. The window was shattered.

“I am so sick,” event organizer Mary James said.

The window was boarded up and Salisbury police were called.

James and others involved in the project are wondering about their next steps.

“Come Tickle Our Ivories” was inspired by a 2008 public art installation by London artist Luke Jerram called “Come Play Me, I’m Yours.” The project, rooted in ideas of peace, community and togetherness, has since taken off in Australia, New York, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco.

The music brings people together and brings out the best in them, James said. And she heard someone playing the damaged piano just Friday.

In Salisbury, each piano is decorated by students at a particular school or college. Contributing schools were Catawba College, Livingstone College, Hood Theological Seminary, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, North Hills Christian School, Rockwell Christian School and the Rowan County Home School Association.

The damaged piano was decorated by students at Livingstone College in honor of sororities and fraternities that have helped the school.

“It’s really unfortunate that someone would do that. I don’t really understand why someone would do that,” said State Alexander, director of public relations at Livingstone.

“My heart really just breaks for the people who put so much work into it,” James said.

Pedal Factory director Mary Rosser said she first saw the vandalism on Facebook in a post about a piano that was thrown through a window at the Empire Hotel. She said the only piano on that end was the one in front of the store.

Not too long after seeing it on social media, Rosser said she heard from the landlord, Greg Rapp. The first concern was whether any bikes were stolen or destroyed. Pedal Factory is a community bike shop that works to make bicycles accessible to adults and children through giveaways and Earn-a-Bike programs.

Rosser said nothing was taken.

“It’s our storage space, really. The bike parts are used, and it’s nothing of significant value,” she said. “It seems to be an act of stupidity.”

Rosser said she doesn’t believe the shop was a target, but the location was merely in a less busy part of downtown.

“I can’t understand why anybody would do that,” she said.

Rosser said she tries not to focus on too many negative things in Salisbury.

“It’s a bummer, but it’s not gonna change how we feel about the town and what we are doing,” she said.

She hopes police catch the vandal and he is prosecuted and sentenced to community service at the bike shop.

Broken glass littered the street in front of the window and clogged the hammers of the piano. The top and front of the old straight-back were popped out of joint. In the nine years she’s known about public pianos, James said she’s never heard of something like this happening before.

“Never, never have I heard of vandalism,” James said.

Police Capt. Shelia Lingle said authorities believe the piano was tipped over and it hit the window and shattered it. Officers found the piano face up on the ground outside the business’s window.

“It is not that hard to tip it over. It is also on wheels to roll,” Lingle said.

“Somebody could’ve bumped into it,” said Officer Steven Plummer, who went to the business.

Lingle said it would’ve taken more than a bump to turn it over.

Linda Jones, executive director of the Salisbury Symphony, which helps sponsor the project each year, said she knows Salisbury as a community full of “beautiful, generous, loving people.”

The Pedal Factory is in a sparsely populated section of South Main Street, surrounded by empty storefronts.

James and Jones said they hopes that the piano, clearly labeled as Livingstone’s, was chosen because of its isolated location and not for more nefarious reasons.

“I would just have to hope that there weren’t any hidden reasons for this,” James said.

But it’s left her nervous about the pianos in front of other major storefronts.

“You hate to scare all the other people,” she said.

All that’s left to do now is to wait for police to investigate and to try to get the piano repaired.

“We will bring it back to life,” Jones said.