Play Me, I’m Yours, Luke Jerram’s interactive, live art project that places pianos in public spaces in cities across the world, is coming to New York June 21-July 5 (from 9:00am-8:00 or 10:00pm depending on the location). The pianos, a mere sixty of them to be exact, will be distributed by nonprofit organization Sing for Hope, and spread among public parks, streets and plazas throughout the five boroughs for anyone’s playing pleasure. McCarren Park is lucky enough to be one of the ten piano destinations in Brooklyn; McCarren’s piano will be at the corner of North 12th and Bedford.
Jerram, who is as much an inventor as he is an artist—he made his wife a talking engagement ring and his friend a miracle toaster which is said to bear an image of the Virgin Mary each time the toaster is used—conceived of the project, is advising it and will be here for the installation when it opens. (Jerram is also a sculptor, an installation maker, a creative consultant, and a kind of artistic scientist . . . oh yeah, and he’s color-blind, to boot.) Sing for Hope has been dealing with most of the hands-on details—they fundraised for the project, found the pianos, got them fixed, and are providing piano tuners, caretakers, and buddies who unlock and lock up the pianos each day/evening, for the duration of the festival.
Where in the world did all these pianos come from? Most were supplied by piano removal companies; often when these businesses deliver a new piano to someone’s home, they take an old one away. Sometimes the old piano has no value, but Sing for Hope is careful not to pick up bad ones. Once the project is over, the pianos will be donated to local schools, hospitals, and community organizations. Emily Walsh, Director of Operations at Sing for Hope says, “Many of these pianos had been sitting at houses for years and really had no future other than perhaps [becoming] firewood, so this is really a cool chance for them to have a second life and then a third life.”
These pianos are meant to inspire impromptu concerts alongside programmed ones. For their first day of summer launch, Sing for Hope will be partnering up with Make Music New York, a unique festival of free concerts in NYC public spaces, all on June 21. The pianos will be inaugurated by these Make Music New York concerts and then unleashed into the hands of the public for the next two weeks, with just a few additional exceptions. Noted artists and celebrities will make appearances throughout the two-week period, Alicia Keys and Mayor Michael Bloomberg among them, but the true aim of the project is for people to claim back their urban space and use it to rediscover a sense of community through music. The next step is to upload pictures and videos of themselves doing so to a Web site dedicated to the project:
Jerram adds, “The idea is that you can get strangers talking to one another, besides fundamentally. You put them in these locations where there could be an invisible hidden community of people, where everyone who’s there, they might know each other by sight but they wouldn’t necessarily speak with one another. Put a piano there and it gets people talking and activates a location and changes the atmosphere of a space entirely.”
Jerram’s pianos have made their way onto ferries, into train stations, and inside bus shelters. In Bath, a group of children congregating for a seven-year-old’s birthday party, ran amuck painting all the pianos with a bag of instruments in tow—recorders, tambourines, and the like. Jerram laughs, “So people use them for different things.” He then goes on to tell a story about how two journalists in Sydney met over a piano and just recently got married. Jerram brings it back, “That’s what it’s about, you know. It’s about making life smoother and more creative and providing opportunities for people to be creative.”
Haven’t had your fill of Jerram just yet? Catch his glass sculptures in a solo show at the Heller Gallery in NYC, titled Infectious Beauty.
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