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Franklin - Local Town Pages

Getting It Done, with a Little Help from Mom

It was to be the final piece.

Flower Alley, on East Central St. in Franklin, the brainchild of Roberta Trahan and a collaboration between the Franklin Downtown Partnership (FDP) and five members of the Franklin Art Association, transformed an unlively brick alley downtown into something beautiful at its reveal in 2021. The artwork (now part of the FDP’s 25-stop Ladybug Trail) added life and a splash of color sorely needed after a pandemic darkened the world, but something was missing.


“During COVID, I started to paint more,” says Lisa Piana, Executive Director of the Franklin Downtown Partnership, “A lot of my friends said they didn’t know I was an artist; it kind of made me sad.”

In fact, Piana studied art in college, receiving her BFA in design. “When I started to work on the mural project for the Partnership, my friends in the Franklin Art Association, especially Sue Sheridan, were really encouraging me to paint more, so I said, ‘I’ll paint the last one. I’ll do the metal door,’ but we unveiled it without my doing the door, because I knew I was going to drag my feet.” Piana felt the murals by Franklin artists Peg Munson, Amy Adams, Hannah Liverant Close, Susan Plume, and AnneMarie Tracey made a strong presentation, even if she wasn’t finished.

Lisa put the painting off. “In 2022, I thought I’d do it and got very busy with other projects, and I really just wasn’t satisfied with it,” she says.

By summer of 2023, it still wasn’t done. “I was kind of stuck; I had this probably about 90% done, but that 10% just kind of keeps you stuck,” says Piana, who, finally, enlisted her 87-year-old Mom, Dottie Mickush, to help her. 

“I needed someone to hold me accountable,” says Piana, a middle child, who had been keeping Dottie apprised of the progress (or lack thereof). Mickush, herself a self-taught artist, decorator and gardener who designed and built her dream house with her husband, had long advised her daughter on composition and color.

And Dottie wasn’t having Lisa’s excuse that she didn’t have time.

“She wasn’t hearing it,” says Piana, “She told me I needed to get it done.”

“My own life my has been fast paced. I told Lisa that,” explains Dottie. She had always planned to get back to acrylic painting after traveling with her husband for 10 of her retirement years. Parkinson’s Disease hampered that plan. “I ran out of time. Life is very short,” she says, adding, “(Lisa) said she was unhappy with (the painting) and was going to start over. She’s very particular about her work, like I was.”

The painting turned into a project Lisa and her Mom could work on together.

“It sort of turned a negative into a positive,” says Piana, “She can no longer paint, but she can paint through me. So, I would take this, and every week, ask her to critique it, for color and composition, and she would ask me to change it.”

On Dottie’s advice, Lisa incorporated color from flowers she had painted into the sky and added other closeup elements of interest, including a rabbit such as the those that once fed on her Mom’s flower gardens. Each week, Lisa’s Mom would help her refine the painting a little more.

“I went back and forth, and then it was pretty much done, but as an artist you’re never satisfied,” Piana says. 

November came, and Dottie came down with pneumonia. “Doctors told the family her condition looked really bleak, but Dottie proved the doctors wrong and made a full recovery in time for Thanksgiving,” says Piana, “And then, I thought, I really need to finish this mural!” 

Finish she finally did, and Lisa dedicated the artwork to her Mom.

“I took her to see it, and she was beyond thrilled just to see it enlarged like that,” says Lisa.

“I felt appreciative of her talent, and said, see? Now it’s recorded on the canvas,” says Dottie. “I see my girl as beautiful, and it’s passed on through the art. The beauty that we have is passed on through the talent.”

Dottie, who says her deepest pride is her three children, is hopeful that this isn’t the last we see of Lisa’s art. Looking at her daughter, the grandmother of seven, says, “Your talent is untapped. You have a lot more in you, but you haven’t brought it to the surface.”