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Piano Alley: A Walk Through Jasper’s Musical Heritage

by Madonna

Jasper, IN – A journey through Jasper’s musical history is now possible with the unveiling of “Piano Alley,” a vibrant addition to the city’s downtown, offering a visual and auditory treat for residents and visitors alike.

Situated in the southeast alley of Jasper, Piano Alley forms an integral part of the ongoing efforts to enhance the aesthetics and pedestrian-friendliness of Jasper’s downtown. The alleyway showcases a vivid representation of a keyboard that progresses seamlessly into the adjacent building’s wall. As visitors stroll along this colorful musical corridor, their journey culminates in a captivating photo opportunity—an inviting arch adorned with an adage from Hans Christian Andersen: “Where words fail, Music Speaks.”

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At the entrance to the alley stands a donated and restored Kimball piano, ready for anyone with a musical inclination to create melodies. A plaque now graces the wall, recounting the legacy of Kimball International in pianos and electronic keyboards, as well as highlighting the transformative impact of Arnold F. Habig’s decision to acquire the W. W. Kimball brand in 1959. This strategic move led to the global prominence of the Kimball brand in the piano market and marked the establishment of Kimball International as a leader in office furniture manufacturing.

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Kate Schwenk, Executive Director of Heart of Jasper, emphasized the significance of the Kimball Piano in the local and regional cultural landscape. “The Kimball Piano has left an indelible mark on the cultural fabric of Jasper and the surrounding regions,” she noted, underscoring the aim to showcase the rich history and profound impact of the Kimball Piano on the community.

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The realization of Piano Alley was made possible through a collaborative effort involving the Community Foundation, Heart of Jasper, the City of Jasper, and the Indiana University Center for Rural Design. The design and execution of this artistic endeavor were skillfully brought to life by IU students Hayden Grider and Katie LaTorre, with the guidance of Eskenazi faculty and ServeDesign Director Jon Racek.

Nicole Lampert, Director of Community Development & Communications at the community foundation, commended the mural created by Grider and LaTorre during the unveiling, expressing gratitude for their remarkable work.

The project aligns with Heart of Jasper’s mission to create a unique small-town experience for all. As Schwenk highlighted, one of the goals of the downtown renovation was to activate the alleys, and Piano Alley, with its interactive piano, adds an enticing element that draws people to the downtown area.

Looking ahead, there’s a potential second phase for Piano Alley that explores the incorporation of audible musical notes activated by the keys in the alley as pedestrians walk through. This innovative initiative promises to add a harmonious dimension to the musical heritage of Jasper.

The city and its partners are celebrating the near completion of the Downtown Renovation and Revitalization project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, open to the public. The event, taking place on the west side of the Courthouse, will feature a short performance by Jasper High School’s marching band. It’s a testament to the commitment of Jasper to create an inviting and vibrant downtown experience for all.

Piano Alley, along with Astra Alley and the newly developed gathering spaces around the Square, is now open for exploration, offering a delightful fusion of art and music in the heart of the city.

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