When I lived in New York, it took a lot to phase me. Between dancers breaking into routines on the subway and poets spontaneously performing on the streets, bold public art was the norm.
But one day I noticed something that actually gave me pause.
It was one of those warm and cuddly "Awww … now THIS is why I love New York moments." As I found myself walking through different boroughs of the city, I'd see brightly colored pianos in parks and other — what I thought were random — outdoor spaces. It turns out that these musical instruments have been sprinkled throughout the communities since 2006.
Sing for Hope is the organization that's responsible for this mysterious piano trail. The nonprofit, powered by volunteer artists, seeks to make art and music accessible to all.
Here's how the magical initiative works.
Generous people and organizations from all over New York donate pianos. Once the instruments are inspected and approved to withstand the fun journey ahead, a team of artists brings the pianos to life. They deck them out with colors, inspiring messages, and eye-catching designs. No two pianos are the same.
The precious instruments are then placed in outdoor spaces throughout the five boroughs of New York. There are no instructions or special guests of honor. Their simple placement is invitation enough for folks in the community to experiment and play.
The best part about this program is that people who may not have access to a piano or be able to afford to hear live music can do so during the 16-day public installation period.
In a telephone interview with Rachel Benichak, a representative for Sing for Hope, she explained:
"Communities really rally around these. These are beautiful pieces created by artists that took hundreds of hours to make and are then placed outside. We've seen friendships formed, proposals — impromptu happenings. Normal people interact with the pianos and it makes their communities better. It's a really fun project."
But the fun doesn't stop there.
After each summer exhibit, the pianos are shipped to their next destination — schools, hospitals, and community organizations.
Teachers at P94M, The SPECTRUM School, in Manhattan's East Village, were ecstatic when they were gifted a Sing for Hope piano in 2013. Music exploration is helping their students develop their voices.
"We work with children with emotional disturbance, children with autism, children with intellectual disabilities. This provides a very therapeutic space for them," says Tessa Defner, an arts coach.
After the pianos are delivered to the various community organizations, Sing for Hope supplies each location with artists who give piano lessons and classes on interpreting the instrument's design.