Kimberly Williams paints a baby grand piano for Street Tunes

Step into the lobby of Everett Station and there she is, gracefully stroking the baby grand piano … with a paintbrush.

Sure, you’ve seen lots of people playing the piano. But painting one?

What’s up with that?

For the rest of July, you can catch Kimberly Williams painting the baby grand for Street Tunes, a summer tradition with public pianos throughout downtown Everett. In August, it’s your turn to have at it. You can play chopsticks or whatever tune turns you on.

A piano is a unique canvas for Williams, 30, a graphic designer who does bus decals, signage and schedule books for Everett Transit.

The baby grand joins the fleet of pianos, most of which were painted in previous years in bright colors, patterns and animal prints, then kept in storage.

When Williams saw the newly acquired black grand in the station’s lobby, she knew at first sight it had to be white and that she wanted to be the one to paint it.

“I am over here often working with the staff. I thought, ‘Ooh, I know exactly what I’m going to do with it,’” she said. “I feel connected to the station through my day job. It’s energizing. I like to fill space in beautiful ways, and it is a beautiful space here at Everett Station. Natural light all day long.”

Carol Thomas, the city’s cultural arts manager, said the train station is one of 18 sites that will have pianos for people to play.

“We always have a piano there,” Thomas said. “It’s a hugely popular gathering spot.”

As a city employee, Williams is doing the project unpaid and on her own time. “Other artists are paid a stipend,” Thomas said.

Williams spent four weekends prepping the piano before starting the blue floral pattern covering the lid.

She applies the blue paint straight on. No stencil. A fabric swatch is her guidance.

“I want it to look like grandma’s old china. Dutch ceramic ware. The repeated pattern is going to be like ‘Whoa, what’s that?’ ” Williams said. “The pure white background with high-gloss finish is to make it look ceramic and dainty, like, ‘Oh, let’s get some tea today.’ ”

The piano is located by the cafe. Convenient for you. But for her, not so much.

Before she could paint the wood white she had to sand it.

“I couldn’t bring an electric sander in because there’s no outlets available nearby and it’s so close to the cafe it would generate a lot of dust,” she said. “I hand-sanded it. It was quite a workout. It was essentially just like doing a lot of pushups.”

The piano is a conversation piece for passerby who stop to chat or, in the early days, critique.

“One man said, ‘What are you doing? It’s such a beautiful piano,’ ” she said. “And I looked at him, because I had been working all day, and I said, ‘I’m an artist. Trust me. It is going to look way better than when I started. I would not leave this piano in shambles.’ ”

Williams enjoys the interaction. Usually, she does her multiple forms of artwork in private. (Check out her art at

“I’ve never worked where people are walking by,” she said. “It’s a unique set of people who come through here on their way to another destination, whether it be B.C. or Portland or even far east. People say, ‘I can’t wait to play the piano. I’ll be back.’ ”

Williams moved to Everett from a small town in Indiana more than six years ago after visiting a friend from college, Elizabeth Person. “We met in the art department at Indiana Wesleyan,” Williams said. “I visited her and fell in love with Everett and the area.”

Her friend, a city graphic designer, also is painting a Street Tunes piano.

“We like to talk piano now,” Williams said. “It will be fun that we both have a piano unveiled together.”

It’s crunch time.

“I have to have it done by August 5,” Williams said. “So August 4 I will have it done.”

Pianos will be out for impromptu concerts through Aug. 25.

You might hear some pounding going on sooner.

Typewriters decorated by artists hit the streets on July 15. “Word on the Street” runs through Aug. 4.

For more, go to

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