Painting to Her Own Tune: Chelsea Ermer’s Grand PianoPinot's Palette
Artist Chelsea Ermer believes in painting the town. Literally. She’s involved in artistic endeavors all over Fort Collins, Colorado – from teaching high schoolers art at Fossil Ridge High School to leading adults in relaxing evenings of paint and sip at the Fort Collins Pinot’s Palette®. Over the summer she found another outlet in Pianos About Town, a vibrant public art display.
Pianos About Town
The program, which recruits local artists to paint donated pianos, started in 2010 as a collaboration between the City of Fort Collins, local arts organizations and businesses, and the community. Over 80 pianos have been donated, painted, and put on display throughout the city as public art that invites passersby to sit down and play a tune. In this way, Pianos About Town provides both public art and music.
During Chelsea’s summer break from her full-time job as a high school teacher, she applied to Pianos About Town. She found the process interesting, since Pianos About Town requires artists to paint in a tented outdoor public location that encourages interaction with the community. Quite a few of her students stopped by during the two weeks it took her to paint the piano. “That was great because sometimes it’s hard for my students to see my artwork when I’m teaching all the time,” Chelsea says.
Chelsea transformed the donated piano into a whimsical masterpiece of aqua popping against a bold yellow honeycomb, with oversized purple peonies crawling up the sides around a honeybee in flight. “I like the mix of geometric and organic shapes,” Chelsea says. “And I love bees. In my high school summer school science and art class, we talked about climate change. So I wanted to support the ‘save the bees’ movement.”
Joys of Professional Painting
Of course, Pinot’s Palette has been thrilled to have one of their artists participate in the public art program. Chelsea began working at the Fort Collins studio two years ago when she was looking for a job to supplement her teaching salary. “It’s a different way of teaching,” she says. “It’s fun to teach to an older crowd, people who haven’t painted since the first grade who may be nervous. Then when they leave, proud of their painting, it’s gratifying to have helped them achieve that.”
And she enjoys attending Pinot’s Palette classes with her family and co-workers. In fact, she first learned about the studio on an outing with her mother and sister. “It’s nice to have someone else tell you what to paint, to relax and not have the pressure,” she says. “And it’s nice for my mom to be able to do artwork with me and connect with me in that way.”
Even with her busy work and school schedule, Chelsea makes time to focus on her own artwork, both inside and outside of the public square. “Forcing myself to do my artwork is important for my sanity,” she says. “I love teaching. But you have to make a conscious choice in the field of art education to make time for your own art – otherwise you lose it. It affects the way you teach if you’ve lost your passion.”
Fortunately, guests at the Fort Collins Pinot’s Palette don’t have to worry about a complacent art teacher. Chelsea’s passion is music to their ears.