MIAMI — The rumors can stop swirling: The baby grand piano that turned up on a Miami sandbar was burned to tatters by New Year’s revelers, then brought to its new home by a television designer’s teenage son who said Thursday he hoped the idea might help him get into a prestigious art school.
Theories of the instrument’s origin had abounded, with some saying they saw helicopters and television crews hovering around the piano. Others tried to claim responsibility, but Nicholas Harrington, 16, had his endeavor on videotape.
Harrington said he wanted to leave his artistic mark on Miami’s seascape as the artist Christo did in the early 1980s when he draped 11 small islands in Biscayne Bay with hot pink fabric. And if it helped the high school junior get into Manhattan’s Cooper Union college, that would be OK, too.
"I wanted to create a whimsical, surreal experience. It’s out of the everyday for the boater," Harrington told The Associated Press.
"I don’t like it be considered as a prank," he said. "It’s more of a movement."
On Jan. 2, Harrington, his older brother Andrew and two neighbors lifted the instrument, which had been trashed during a holiday party, onto the family’s 22-foot boat and took it out on Biscayne Bay. There, they left it on the highest spot along a sandbar.
Harrington is the son of "Burn Notice" production designer J. Mark Harrington. The piano is an old movie prop that sat for four years in Harrington’s grandmother’s garage. The teen had talked about hoisting the instrument from a tree or using it in a music video, among other projects, his mother said, but nothing happened until the winter break from school.
The teen said he grew up in a family that appreciated art and architecture, and he had his parents’ support for his scheme.
"The weirdness of it all just comes easily," he said.
The piano sat undisturbed in the bay until last week, when Suzanne Beard, a local resident, took her boat over to the sandbar to take a look. Her picture of pelicans roosting on the instrument ended up on the National Geographic website. From there, the story went viral, much to Harrington’s surprise.
"We pretty much forgot about it until it became super popular," the teen said.
He said he had planned to remain anonymous — except for including photos of the installation in his college application — until others began claiming responsibility.
"I think it was much more powerful as a mystery," said the teen’s mother, Annabel Harrington. "It put Miami on the map in a good way."
Harrington’s school counselor, Ariel Diaz-Escanaverino, said they had discussed the idea as a unique subject for a college application essay.
"It was time to say and let the world know that it was a 16-year-old who really did this without any intrinsic feeling for notoriety or money or any of the things that started to happen," Diaz-Escanaverino said.
It’s not clear what will happen to the piano. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission isn’t responsible for moving such items and the U.S. Coast Guard won’t get involved unless it becomes a hazard to navigation.
Harrington and his mother said they are prepared to retrieve the piano.
"It’s just another adventure," the teen said.
Associated Press writer Suzette Laboy in Miami contributed to this report.