Making Piano Music on the Streets of Toronto
An international and interactive musical arts initiative that has reached more than two million people around the globe is coming to Toronto in July to help mark the three-year countdown to the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.
Play Me, I’m Yours is a visual art installation conceived in 2008 by British artist Luke Jerram that highlights the Toronto 2015 Games focus on diversity and Pan American culture through art and celebration. Pianos are placed in public parks, bus shelters, train stations, outside galleries and markets for any member of the public to play and enjoy. The Canadian edition of this international art and music project, brought to you in part by CIBC, Lead Partner of the TORONTO 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, will come alive on the streets of Toronto with its launch on July 10. It will have a uniquely Pan American flavour in support of the TO2015 Arts and Culture program.
All of the pianos are personalized and imaginatively designed by visual artists from the Pan American communities.
We asked Don Shipley, TO2015 Creative Director, Arts, Culture and Festivals to explain the project’s concept and how it made its way to Toronto.
How did you select the pianos project?
We wanted to create an event to give arts and culture visibility and profile as we hit our first major countdown to the Games. I was looking for a project that would be fun, interactive, unique and different. And so, there are 41 pianos representing 41 Pan American countries. And then we commissioned 41 visual artists to design them in ways which we hope reflect the spirit and culture of their respective countries.
What kinds of pianos will we see on the streets of Toronto?
Most of them are 80 to 100 years old. They are the old heritage-type pianos and come in all different kinds of colours.
Will the pianos be painted?
We tried to stay away from themes. We encouraged the artists, who come from all the different Pan American countries, to be inspired and creative. The design application isn’t only paint. It can be an installation, collage, cubism or magic realism. In fact, the designs are in whatever style they wish to work in. One thing we requested is that each design should reflect the spirit and culture of their countries.
How does it work? Do people just find a piano on the street and start playing it?
The pianos will be in public places such as the CN Tower, on the ferries, in front of the Via Rail station at Toronto City Hall and at street corners. There’s an invitation on the piano for people with the words: “Play Me, I’m Yours.” This is an invitation to people to sit down and play the pianos. It’s both a visual arts installation and interactive in the sense that people sit down and play jazz, blues, folk, Gershwin, Chopsticks or whatever in a fun, wonderful and socially engaging way. You’ll be surprised. People will not be able to resist playing the pianos. Many of us had at least a few piano lessons. So people can’t resist an invitation to play. Then the public can take photos and videos and upload them to streetpianos.ca. This site will also have the all the locations of the Toronto pianos. This will feed into the lager global community and network of this event with other cities around the world. We have the exclusive Canadian rights to the street pianos project.
Are you worried about the pianos becoming damaged?
The pianos have an assigned piano buddy or guardian angel who is directly responsible for their well-being. They roll them out to the public spaces each morning. They are all protected.
The Play Me, I’m Yours project will be launched at David Pecaut Square in Toronto on July 10. All 41 pianos will be on display in a designated formation for a musical celebration before they are reassigned to unique landmarks throughout the city.