Rach the Parks
This week New York City will join three other cities worldwide in featuring a new kind of installation art. Sixty pianos will be scattered throughout the city, designed to encourage passers-by to sit down and play.
After fighting for years to meet pedestrians’ demand for benches and public bathrooms, Play Me, I’m Yours is representative of New York’s push to embrace its creative class.
Decades of rent controlled buildings sent prices skyrocketing in the city for those not fortunate to score a price-capped apartment. Artists in residence who once thrived in the city have found themselves pushed out of New York seeking a lifestyle that permits artists to focus on their creative product.
London, Sao Paolo, and Sydney have already embraced the “Play Me, I’m Yours” Project. New York’s sixty pianos will double the Project’s reigning largest installation; London had only thirty pianos last year.
Charitable organization Sing for Hope asked local artists to decorate the pianos, all of which were donated for the event. Each instrument will rest from June 21st to July 5th across public areas and parks in fifty locations.
[Project Founder] Luke Jerram got the idea at his local coin-operated laundry, according to a website about the project. He saw the same people there every weekend, but none of them talked to each other. He thought a piano might help bring people together in places like that.
The results in other cities have been surprising and life-changing, he said in an interview. A woman in Sao Paulo heard her daughter play for the first time on one of Jerram’s pianos in a train station. The mother had worked to pay for lessons for four years, but the family had no piano at home.
In Sydney, a couple met at a piano and are now married, Jerram said.
There will be twenty-seven pianos in Manhattan, ten in Brooklyn, five in Queens and four each in Staten Island and the Bronx.
Each piano will come equipped with an “anti-theft device” — a cinder block chained to its case — and a protective tarp for nights and rainy days. “Piano buddies” will attend each instrument, unlocking its cover at 9:00 every morning, securing it at 10pm and remaining generally responsible for its care.
Even in the embryonic stage the project encourages communities to cooperate. Asked why she asked volunteers to paint the pianos, Sing for Hope co-founder Camille Zamora cited a desire to keep the pianos accessible, according to the New York Times. Ms. Zamora told a Times reporter: “We want communities where the pianos go to feel the pianos are theirs, that you don’t have to take 20 years of lessons.”
Even should the pianos fail to cohere divergent communities, this project will permit individuals to tap into their creative sides. Statistically this spurs innovation, which in turn rejuvenates morale overall.
The pianos will be installed in the following locations around New York City: