The Frost School of Music Celebrates Gift of New Up-cycled Mosaic

By Katy Hennig

The Frost School of Music Celebrates Gift of New Up-cycled Mosaic

By Katy Hennig
“Piano Keys,” an up-cycled computer key mosaic, brings elements of technology and art together, gracing the lobby of the Maurice Gusman Concert Hall.

After arriving at the Palm Beach Art and Antiques Show in February, Robert Newman, Honorary Alumnus '08, and University Trustee, and Judi Prokop Newman, B.B.A. '63, connected with their friend Laura from Guarisco Galleries, who introduced them to the work of one of her new artists. Since both Newman’s have a technical background and met as programmers, they were quickly intrigued with the new medium that the artist, Doug Powell, uses. “He recycles computer keys into an image and places hidden messages in the keys to make you look at the piece in greater depth,” shares Judi. 

While viewing a few of the available pieces, their focus immediately moved to the work “Piano Keys,” seeing it as a natural fit for the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. “Dean Shelly Berg and his wife, Julia, are good friends of ours, and Dean Berg is a Jazz Pianist extraordinaire, being nominated five times for a Grammy,” said Judi. “What could be better than a gift of computer keys shaped as piano keys? For a school that excels at music technology, performance and creativity this displays it all. By the way, look for the messages!

View a gallery of "Piano Keys"

More about the artist

Doug Powell’s introduction to recycling started as a young teenager growing up in Central New Jersey, when he would go door to door throughout his neighborhood collecting used newspapers and glass containers that would ultimately end up at the Sunday recycling drive with the local Boy Scouts. His inspiration to connect art and up-cycled materials inevitably began right along with the environmental movement of the 1970’s.

Doug’s inner creative youth was calling and today, his art is a fulltime endeavor. Doug Powell’s current medium is cast-off computer keys from clunky old keyboards that come from a variety of origins. Each piece, such as “Piano Keys,” has a unique, tangible history that bears the weathered landscape of thousands of uses.

“I want the viewer to ponder the infinite and profound combination of thoughts, ideas and inspirations that have surely passed through this intellectual porthole, and all made possible with just the common computer key,” said Powell. "Art, including music, and science are one and the same. Both attempt to describe and understand the world around us.”

From a distance, the three-dimensional mosaics look like a textured painting, but upon closer examination, reveal an unexpected landscape of hidden words, phrases and quotes intimately related to the work. In effect, the viewer gets a little history lesson and further insight into the subject.

Powell's artistic style tends to lean toward symbolism and impact, with innovative, recycled public art.  “Science and technology play a significant role in the creation and expression of music,” shared Powell.

"Piano Keys" is a new creation inspired by Powell's recent ambition to learn to play the piano. He shares, "It’s never too late and no matter how old you are, never stop blazing new trails."