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Painting for the public: Art project takes shape across Grand Forks region

GRAND FORKS - Hillary Kempenich said moving, sanding and priming an upright piano inside the buildings of Altru Health System caused quite a stir March 8. As she used a small paintbrush to create bright green leaves on the piano later that aftern...

One of the Project 88 pianos sits in the River Cinema Mall, painted by artist Mary Ann Austin. Anna Burleson / Forum News Service
One of the Project 88 pianos sits in the River Cinema Mall, painted by artist Mary Ann Austin. Anna Burleson / Forum News Service
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GRAND FORKS – Hillary Kempenich said moving, sanding and priming an upright piano inside the buildings of Altru Health System caused quite a stir March 8. As she used a small paintbrush to create bright green leaves on the piano later that afternoon, Kempenich said she's excited to be a part of Project 88, a public art initiative.

"I know public art projects can be hard, but people don't normally think of this space as public, so it's different," she said. Her piece was on the second floor lounge of the Altru Rehabilitation Center.

Kempenich's design was inspired by her daughters, aged 8 and 11, and features brightly colored birds, foliage and bicycles. She applied online to be a Project 88 artist.

Project 88 is a coordinated effort between the Grand Forks Public Arts Commission, North Valley Arts Council, University of North Dakota Student Group Project 88 and the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks (Minn.) and Region.

In East Grand Forks, Mary Ann Austin's Project 88 piano titled "A Secret Place," which features birch trees and flowers, sits outside Mama Maria's restaurant in the River Cinema Mall.

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Artist Lillian Stegman was going to begin painting her Project 88 piano in the Grand Cities Mall last week.

The pianos are the second large PAC project this year, according to Forum News Service archives. The first was "Ghosts," farm equipment that was painted white and installed in January in a field along South 42nd Street in Grand Forks.

Kempenich said the piano she's working on is fully functional, and she hoped her daughters would join her as she worked on the piece.

One of the Project 88 pianos sits in the River Cinema Mall, painted by artist Mary Ann Austin. Anna Burleson / Forum News Service
Hillary Kempenich paints a piano for the Project 88 public art initiative in a second-floor lounge at the Altru Health System Rehabilitation Center. Her piece is titled, "Fluidity." Anna Burleson / Forum News Service

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