All Keyed Up

Photographer: Jami Milne  Artist: Meanz Chan

There may be no single key to happiness, but 88 keys can get you there. That’s the number on a standard piano keyboard, and it makes us very happy that 11 pianos are stationed around town for City Sounds, the public piano project founded in 2014 by Kathryn Dickel and Larry James.

New locations this year are the Kum & Go headquarters at 1415 Grand Ave. and Captain Roy’s, the popular riverside stop along the bike trail at Birdland Marina. You’ll also find pianos at nine additional locations, including the Des Moines Social Club, Cowles Commons, Raygun, the Shops at Roosevelt and Woody’s Smoke Shack. All locations (find the list at are typically available from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. 

This year’s pianos were freshly painted in grand style by 12 local artists, among them Ted Lyddon Hatten, Iven P. Jones, Sue Weiser Pen Wood and Trey Reis. 

Pianos will remain through September. Anyone is welcome to noodle around on the keys, play a little riff or launch into an impromptu performance. 

And this fall, look for even more from City Sounds: Dickel has spearheaded a collaborative project in which top local photographers are shooting portraits of Des Moines musicians in ways, we promise, you’ve never seen before. We’ll debut the portraits, and share more details, in the next issue of dsm.

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