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Piano installation across Boston, Somerville and Cambridge will begin Friday

Posted by Your Town  September 24, 2013 08:30 AM

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Play Me, I’m Yours, an interactive installation of 75 pianos throughout Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge, will begin on Friday, Sept. 27, and last until Monday, Oct. 14. The installation, which invites random passersby to sit down at whim and play a tune, hopes to bring music and visual art to the public in a way Boston has yet to experience.

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Gary Dunning, the executive director of the Celebrity Series of Boston and one of the organizers for creator Luke Jerram’s public piano display, said the installation of the project corresponds with the Celebrity Series’ 75th anniversary. He said the organization’s mission has been to bring great performance art to Boston since its inception, and now they are excited to give back and allow the people of Boston to take the spotlight.

“We timed this because of our 75th anniversary as a kickoff and as a ‘thank you’ to Boston,” Dunning said. “We have a long history of presenting great piano artists, so this is a way for us to take it out of the concert hall and put it out on the street corner.”

Dunning said that one of the most fulfilling aspects of this project has been its hyper-local focus. While the Play Me, I’m Yours project is an international interactive art project with locations in over 40 cities, the vision of the project has been to incorporate local artists and musicians into its fiber.

Local professional and amateur artists — including 11 Somerville artists and students from Sumner School, Hurley School, Burke High School, and Murphy School — designed and created the exterior facades of the 75 pianos that will be displayed starting on Friday.

“I think the fun thing about the piano project is that it’s meant to be absolutely local. Local artists are designing it, local artists will be playing it, and local Bostonians will be enjoying it,” Dunning said.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino praised the work of Celebrity Series and their new installation in a press release. He said he feels the piano project will be a great addition to Boston’s art scene.

“I want to congratulate Celebrity Series of Boston on 75 years of bringing the world's greatest performing artists to our city," Menino said. "The public piano festival, Play Me I'm Yours, will give residents and visitors a chance to make music in the streets of Boston through this exciting public art installation.”

Ben Kauffman, one of the Somerville artists designing a piano, said he thinks this project is hitting the city at the perfect time. He feels that Somerville, and greater Boston in general, is more open to art than ever and that seeing the project take off has been an exciting endeavor.

“I really think Somerville and Boston are totally ripe for this kind of event right now,” Kauffman said. “In terms of the openness of the public to art and music — as well as the homegrown talent that we have in terms of art and music — it’s a perfect marriage. It’s going to be a really cool thing.”

Kauffman said that the community is already responding to the concept of the piano project, and that it will be interesting to see who shows up to play in the streets. He said it has been not only a great opportunity for himself and other local artists to get their work in the public sphere, but that it will also give musicians a chance to share their talents with the community.

“There’s a real momentum to the Somerville art scene right now,” Kauffman said. “Folks will just eat [this project] up because it’s an event that winds up being a reflection of the community that it’s staged in. Part of the whole beauty of this is that the pianos are put out, and the public is drawn in to the event.”

Lyn Cardinal, another Somerville artist who is participating in the Play Me, I’m Yours project, said the project is special in the sense that it brings together both visual and audio art. She said she’s never completed a project like this before, and that it is a great way to combine to very different art forms.

“Like records and cover art, I see how [audio and visual] mix together really well,” Cardinal said. “It’s a good way to take advantage of something that otherwise would have been a blank canvas: the piano.”

Play Me, I’m Yours will begin on Friday, September 27. The Celebrity Series of Boston will also host a 75th season kickoff party to celebrate the installation on Saturday, October 5 at the Galleria at 10 St. James Avenue.

For more information on the project, featured artists, or piano locations visit the event’s website or read these questions and answers.

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