The Painted Pianos Of Glasgow Piano City

I was invited to do a workshop at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCoS) by Gary Fry, Lecturer - Scenic Art. Tom Binns, the Project Coordinator for Glasgow Piano City (GPC), was one of the workshop attendees. GPC is a non-profit organization that takes donated pianos and, after decorating them, places those pianos in public spaces around the city for people to play and enjoy. He was taking the workshop to get some advice for how to paint some upcoming piano projects that required vibrant, rich paint colors. Upon hearing this, Gary sprung into action - he found a wooden piano stool and introduced Tom to the power of our colors by painting on the stool. Tom was convinced. So much so that he journeyed with me to the local distributor, Smith and Rodger, to buy the colors he needed for multiple painted piano projects. Below are some of his results!

Molly and Mabel

The “HoLa” designs found on these two twin sister pianos were inspired by the vibrant colors Tom found while looking at images of HeLa Cells. These cervical cancer cells, originally taken from Henrietta Lacks (He La) in 1951, have supported worldwide research into numerous diseases.

A multiphoton fluorescence image of HeLa cells. Credit: Tom Deerinck via the U.S. National Institutes of Heath.

Glasgow based Artist and Illustrator Kayleigh McCallum covered the pianos in her painted “HoLa” cells that featured hearts and hands reaching out to each other. Watch the video below to see how she used a sticky plastic film as her mask to apply the unique shapes to the piano.

Kayleigh commented on her use of Rosco paint: “As a professional artist, working with this paint was an absolute joy. With a wonderful thick, vinyl consistency, each colour gave fantastic coverage across each surface of the piano and great consistency over all sorts of background colours. Mainly, I used the paint straight from the pot, but with some of the bigger pieces I diluted it with water for blending.  Both applications worked equally well, and I was delighted with the results. The pigment certainly has created the vibrancy we needed and has the ability to make everything come alive & pop!”

Artist Kayleigh McCallum applying '"HoLa" cells using Rosco Off Broadway scenic paint.

Once Molly and Mabel were completed, they were donated to two of the city’s largest hospitals: Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where they are free to play to this day. They even got a nice write-up in The Times.


Tom Binns, Ian Hamilton from BBC One's "Reporting Scotland, & Scenic Artist Amy Hastie pose with Fern.

Amy Hastie, a talented scenic art student at RCoS, did a truly beautiful job decorating Fern with foliage and flowers using Rosco paints. Once completed, Fern was also placed inside Queen Elizabeth University to help lift the spirits of the patients and visitors inside.

Click the above image of Scenic Artist Amy Hastie to see the entire "Reporting Scotland" video.

Tom and and GPC were featured on BBC Scotland. The report by Ian Hamilton showcased several of their pianos, including Fern, and it included a short interview with Amy who described the design brief Tom had shared with her. “He wanted the piano to have a lot of plants and wildlife,” she said, “and he wanted it to be a little mossy. It’s obviously a very white and sterile place in here and he wanted Fern to bring a little bit of the outside indoors.”


Heather was conceived as a community project for Glasgow Piano City’s contribution to the 2018 European Championships. This was the largest sporting event in Scotland since the Commonwealth Games in 2014, and Glasgow Piano City provided the associated Festival 2018 that accompanied the games (pun intended) four new painted pianos that were dotted around the city centre. One of these pianos was Heather, which was installed inside a tent during Go Live at the Green! where hundreds of local Glasgow children were encouraged to paint on her. The piano was first spray painted with a mountain landscape by Marianne Vosloo to provide the base scene that hundreds of wee hands would paint on.

Kayleigh McCallum paints some touch ups on 'Heather'

Tom enlisted Kayleigh McCallum’s help again and provided her with pots of Rosco paint from several Off Broadway Sample Kits. “We painted everything from highland cows to flowers, butterflies and everything in between,” Kayleigh said. “With members of the public painting the piano, many of which were children – some as young as 18 months, the painting was very spontaneous and free!”

She noted how the little pots inside the Off Broadway Sample Kit provided “a great variety of colours and metallics in handy little pots for people to choose the colours they wanted to use. It kept the process clean and easy to work with, allowing me to coordinate hundreds of contributions.”  Heather, we’re proud to say, now lives inside the lobby of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for anyone to play.

Thanks to Tom Binns from Glasgow Piano City for sharing his stories about creating his marvelous pianos. If you’d like to learn more about their mission and meet more of his fantastic pianos, visit: Whether you need to paint an object for a public art project or if you need to paint a prop piano on stage, explore our Scenic Paint product page to discover the Rosco paint that works best for your next painted design.


Jenny Knott April 16, 2019 Questions?

About Jenny Knott

Scenic Paint & Coating Product Manager: A graduate from the University of Missouri, Kansas City with an MFA in Design and Technology, Jenny has been a freelance scenic artist for over 30 years – working for regional theatres including Missouri Rep (now KC Rep), Arena Stage, the Guthrie and Goodspeed Opera House as well as union scene shops. Jenny is a member of United Scenic Artists 829 as well as a past member of USITT’s Board of Directors. Jenny continues to paint, which keeps her current with emerging scenic artists and helps her discover new ways of approaching paint challenges. “Bring on the goop and let’s get creative.”