COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The president of an organization called the Mural Project said she expected some vandalism on several public pianos but fears the situation is now out of hand.
"I'm very attached to them," said Jennifer Ryan, whose organization placed donated pianos for outdoor public use and enjoyment in four Colorado Springs locations.
Ryan said a 1912 Baldwin piano was damaged Wednesday after someone ignited its protective tarp for the third time this year.
The piano was in a breezeway next to the Seeds Community Cafe.
"This is not the place to start fires," said cafe owner Lyn Harwell. "This is not the place to keep warm. This is not a shelter. I don't know if it's homeless, transients or who's starting the fires. We have 'no loitering' signs up but they don't seem to work."
Ryan says to protect the pianos, she has had them removed from their locations.
"We're not going to let vandalism stop us from spreading an appreciation for music and the arts," she said. "The pianos will be back on Memorial Day weekend. But we need to figure out who's damaging them and why, and decide how to provide more security around them."
Ryan said a second downtown piano sustained weather damage after its tarp was taken several times.
"Repairing them will cost a few hundred dollars," she said. "I pay those costs myself."
The Baldwin piano will be repaired at the Piano Warehouse downtown.
"It's made of wood, so I expected the worst," said warehouse owner Rick Bokt. "But (there is) kind of like a plastic fiberglass that got on the finish, which isn't too bad. It could have been a lot worse. It shouldn't be a problem for us. We'll just scrape it off and refinish a little bit here."
Harwell and Ryan say the pianos are sorely missed.
"They've brought so much joy to so many people," Harwell said. "I'm talking about beautiful music emanating from people who just walk up to play."
"I'm going to make sure that we maintain the integrity of the piano," Ryan said. "I'll do what I can to make that happen."
Harwell and Ryan said police have one suspect and are seeking others.