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School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

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Fine Art alumni commissioned for Leeds Piano Trail

August 29th, 2018

Sophie Bullen and Ollie Getley decorating pianos for Leed Piano Trail 2018

A trail featuring a dozen imaginatively decorated pianos, including two prepared by two recent BA Fine Art graduates, launched across Leeds on 17 August.

Part of a series of events to celebrate this year’s Leeds International Piano Competition, Leeds Piano Trail includes one of the decorated pianos in Parkinson Court at the University of Leeds.

BA Fine Art graduates from the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, Sophie Bullen and Ollie Getley, were commissioned to prepare the piano in Parkinson Court, as well as one located inside Leeds train station.

Ready for anyone to play at locations including museums, shopping centres and galleries, the pianos will be in place until The Leeds, as the piano competition is affectionately known, concludes on 16 September. A range of pop-up performances and events will centre on the trail pianos for the duration.

Ollie Getley, 21, from Stafford, and Sophie Bullen, 23, from the Wirral, have now made their home in Leeds after graduating with undergraduate degrees in Fine Art from the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies this summer.

Ollie and Sophie led the curatorial team of final year students as part of this year’s BA Fine Art Degree Show, Squeeze. The Show took a playful and responsive approach to art, something Ollie said he wanted to continue when approaching the pair’s commission for the two Leeds Piano Trail instruments.

They have taken a duet approach to the pianos, collaborating from concept to execution. Fellow BA Fine Art graduates Toby Kilby-Pollard and Henry Cottam assisted with work on the piano that will sit in the Parkinson Building for the next month. For that piano, the artists have created an eye-catching object that changes its functionality.

Encased in soundproofing insulation and wooden planks, the upright instrument’s sound is funnelled upwards through a brass horn. Ollie said:

“This has been a really great opportunity to have straight out of university.

“Our final year at Leeds in particular gave us the confidence to approach bigger things such as this with ambition.”

For the Leeds station piano, the brief came from sponsor Classic FM. Sophie explained how the broadcaster wanted the artists to highlight the relaxing qualities of listening to – and performing – music. She added:

“We want to create a space inside the hustle and bustle of a busy train station – a tranquil oasis, a place where people can take some time out.”

The design incorporates a nearby bench for commuters to relax while listening to the instrument being played.

Sophie, who has been combining work on the pianos with a month’s residency at Wakefield’s Art House, enthused about the foundations provided by her university experience:

“Our degree gave us a lot of practical skills, as well high levels of critical thinking and self-confidence. We’re really honoured that we’ve been chosen to take part in this great project.”

Abigail Harrison Moore, Head of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, said:

‘Sophie and Ollie have clearly demonstrated with this project the enthusiasm and commitment our graduates have to art and culture in the region.

“We are so excited to see them developing their careers and experiences beyond their degrees and applaud everything they have achieved through their work for the Piano Trail.

Also part of the piano competition for which the University of Leeds is principal partner is a large and varied range of concerts and events designed to run alongside the main competition, which starts from 6 September.

Piano +, which began with the unveiling of Leeds Piano Trail earlier this month, features many events on campus and aims to celebrate the instrument as never before and reach new audiences. A host of talks, masterclasses, exhibitions, free family events, concerts and other opportunities will provide chances for people from Leeds and beyond to get involved with the triennial competition.

More information out the Leeds International Piano competition and Piano Trail can be found here.


Image shows recent University of Leeds Fine Art graduates Ollie Getley and Sophie Bullen working on one of the Leeds Piano Trail instruments.

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