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"Play Me, I'm Yours" Pianos Come to Boston Streets

Heights Staff

Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 23:09

A brand new, interactive form of street art is coming to Boston beginning Sept. 27. There will be 75 pianos located in downtown Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline, open for the public to play. The project, called “Play Me, I’m Yours,” is the brainchild of British artist Luke Jerram. It has debuted in more than 35 cities around the world, including Los Angeles and New York City. The project is sponsored by the Celebrity Series of Boston to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

The 75 pianos will be decorated by local artists from Boston and its surrounding areas, as well as Boston-based artistic groups, who have been working diligently on their playable works of art. The pianos, which range in size from upright pianos to grand pianos, were all donated in their original, unpainted states. Decorating began in the middle of August and is reaching its final stages of completion as the pianos prepare to be displayed around Boston. Some of the local artists include Needham’s Nancy-Lee Mauger, Lou Lim of Medford, and Natalia Chilcote of Jamaica Plain. Some of the artistic groups include The Huntington Theater Company and Wilson Kelsey Design. “Play Me, I’m Yours” in Boston will also include the 1,000th piano of the project, a baby grand to be decorated by Frank Casazza and Michael Crockett and placed near City Hall.

A final map for the pianos will be released in the final week of September when the pianos are set to debut. Some locations will include the Statehouse, Chinatown, the Franklin Park Zoo, and South Station, as well as locations outside the Museum of Fine Arts and near City Hall. One of the closest pianos to Boston College will be located in Washington Square in Brookline. The pianos will be open for all to use, regardless of ability. They could be played by a piano virtuoso, a musician in a local band, or a 4-year-old who just likes the sound that they can make by running their hand down all of the keys. Pianos that are located in public places will be for composing at all hours of the day or night. Pianos that are located in more residential neighborhoods, such as Somerville, will have opening and closing hours in order to observe local noise ordinances.

The Celebrity Series has worked since 1938 to bring the performing arts to the city of Boston because, according to their website, they believe “in the power of excellence and innovation in the performing arts to enrich life experience, transform lives, and build better communities. ”By bringing “Play Me, I’m Yours” and other performances to Boston, the Celebrity Series hopes to make a city where the performing arts are valued and shared among the community.

The idea for “Play Me, I’m Yours” came to being when artist Luke Jerram was sitting in a Laundromat. “I saw the same people there each weekend and yet no one talked to one another,” Jerram said, according to the official website for his street piano artwork. “I suddenly realized that within a city, there must be hundreds of these invisible communities, regularly spending time with one another in silence. Placing a piano into the space was my solution to this problem, acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space.”

 Since its beginning in Birmingham, UK, the pianos have appeared in cities around the world. Jerram is famous for his works of live art including “Sky Orchestra,” where music is projected from hot air balloons to the people below and “Just Sometimes,” where he floated 1000 umbrellas down the Rotte River in the Netherlands.

After “Play Me, I’m Yours” ends on Oct. 14, the decorated pianos will be donated to charities, schools, and organizations that are in need of them, continuing the missions of both “Play Me, I’m Yours” and the Celebrity Series of Boston to integrate music into the fabric of the city of Boston.

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