By Christopher Roberson
For the third time, decorated pianos will be arriving in the city at the end of the month for this year’s Play Us A Tune Public Piano Project.
Timothy Brown, director of Innovation and Strategy at the Northeast Arc, said four pianos will be available for eight weeks. “The pianos, even though they are cared for by volunteers, are still exposed to changes in temperatures and weather conditions,” he said. “Eight weeks is about all they can last outside and still maintain a tune.”
Brown said the pianos will be located at the Leather City Common, Peabody Square, outside of the Peabody Institute Library and at the intersection of Main Street and Littles Lane.
Regarding security, Brown said business owners have volunteered to ensure that the pianos remain protected. “Businesses are responsible to cover and uncover the pianos according to their hours of operations,” he said. “In inclement weather, the businesses will keep the covers on the pianos. We ask that if a person uncovers the piano in the evening to play, that they do cover it back up to protect it overnight.”
He said that in prior years, as many as 20 artists have come forward to decorate the pianos. “Artists must submit a sample portfolio along with the design for the piano. The portfolio needs to include other public or large art projects,” said Brown. “The Piano Project is different than many other larger instillations in that the piano, particularly the front, is not a flat surface.”
In addition, he said it is always interesting to see how the pianos are decorated as “each piano is so unique and appeals to each person differently.”
“We have seen whimsical interpretations of a tea party to a journey through space,” said Brown, adding that he has seen artists use darker tones as well as brilliant colors that almost seem to jump off the piano.
“Using different artists for each piano guarantees that each piece of art is distinctive, and the common thread between them is the music that is played,” he said.
Although it took time, Brown said, residents have grown accustomed to not only having the pianos around but to playing them as well. “Last year, nearly any time of the day, if you walked down Main Street someone was playing one of the pianos,” he said.
Brown said what he enjoys the most is hearing the melodious tones of the pianos resonate throughout downtown Peabody.
“We have seen mini-concerts happen where small groups gather around one piano and play and sing – or just one person out doing errands and sitting down to play a song or two,” he said. “The Play Us A Tune project provides both visual and auditory stimulation to Main Street.”