Many thanks goes out to the wonderful Jenna Lee Leonard! Her hard work and talent are on full display on the updated Queen themed street piano that is on display outside Ear Craft Music. Read all about it in the Foster’s article here!
DOVER — A sunflower-yellow piano now emanates a magnetic energy on a Central Avenue sidewalk, in front of Ear Craft Music for anyone to play.
Artist Jenna Lee Leonard witnessed its pull firsthand, over the course of the month she painted it — passersby in a hypnotic-like state once they spotted singer Freddie Mercury’s larger-than-life face illustrated below the keys.
Leonard’s artistic piano project began with an advertisement from the downtown Dover music store, seeking someone to paint the piano that sits outside its doors. She submitted some sketch ideas — Mercury and Queen-themed — and she was selected for the job.
A South Berwick, Maine, resident, Leonard sells her artwork both online and locally, having done stints with the York Art Association, and recently painting the set for theatrical performances of the “Wedding Singer” at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth. Her nomadic “gypsy soul” lifestyle has brought her from Texas, to Florida, to Wisconsin, and now New England.
Leonard’s artistic endeavors began with charcoals, notably a life-size drawing of Lucille Ball, in middle school. Her work today maintains that aesthetic — bold characters at two extremes, either popping with color or simple black and white.
“A teacher said to me once, ‘You have to eat, breathe, sleep art,’” said Leonard, 34, who typically goes to bed around 6 a.m. because she works on her artwork through the night.
Leonard said she had always wanted to paint a piano. Her mom, she said, is “obsessed” with Mercury, the impetus for her design.
“First I thought of his yellow jacket, and what better than a yellow piano, because it’s happy and will attract attention,” she said. “I wanted it to be little, happy things I could pull from his lyrics.”
The piano reads, “The show must go on,” “don’t stop me now,” and “we are the champions of the world,” as well as other lyric excerpts.
Leonard spent an hour or two per day painting the piano on the sidewalk, which ultimately turned into a lesson on humanity for the artist herself, where she was exposed to a unique assortment of people — a snapshot of life on one city block.
“I don’t know if it’s Freddie Mercury or this town or this space, but people were just … I’ve never met such a group of eclectic, amazing people,” she said. “It was like a religious experience. People would come up to me with tears in their eyes.”
Leonard learned the names of dogs who walked by daily and made friends with Karen, the parking attendant. She was approached one day by a woman who said something to the likes of, “I had to pull over to tell you thank you so much, Freddie Mercury changed my life. I just had to tell you, that’s all.”
Some people played the piano while she painted, Leonard said. Elderly people discussed with her the cost of music lessons in their day, or showed pictures of their grandchildren. She watched “little Freddie Mercurys” come in and out of Ear Craft Music for lessons.
“I’ve done a decent number of projects before, and no one’s really reacted like this,” Leonard said. “People driving by would yell, ‘Get it girl!’ I like being close to Dover because people are a little weirder here.”
Leonard has a project in mind to paint the faces of the “27 Club,” which includes famous musicians — like Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse — who all died at 27 years old.
“I love people, portraits are my favorite,” she said. “I still haven’t found my niche, but I feel like I’m finally getting there.”