Let me play you a melody

Public art projects like the pianos currently scattered all over Boston have the ability to reach thousands of people in an era when arts are often cut from the budget.

Ann Hermes/Staff
Piano in Copley Square, Boston.

The crowd looks on expectantly as a young woman in a sheer black blouse steps up to the piano. “It’s a little out of tune,” Filiz Cagla, a classically trained musician from Bursa, Turkey, tells her audience halfway through her rendition of “Take Five.”

But no one seems to have noticed. After all, there are honking cars, chatting pedestrians, and children screeching for their parents’ attention on this small concrete island in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass. The brown piano Ms. Cagla has taken over is painted with white stripes, polka dots, and ducks. It’s part of the public art project “Play Me, I’m Yours”; some 75 decorated pianos have been installed across Boston and its environs this fall.

Artist Luke Jerram came up with the project in 2008 in Birmingham, England, and since then has brought more than 1,000 pianos to 37 locations worldwide.
“[It] provides a blank canvas for the public ... to share their creativity with each other,” Mr. Jerram says, calling the installation the “democratization of art.” “[Art] doesn’t need to be in a gallery or opera house,” he says by phone from London.

“Play Me, I’m Yours” is sponsored by the Celebrity Series of Boston, but coincided with the city’s first celebration of ArtWeek, launched by the Citi Performing Arts Center.

“Public art is coming into a new realm,” says Sue Dahling Sullivan, chief strategic officer for the center. “People want to see creativity and art everywhere they go.” ArtWeek Boston is loosely based on the model of restaurant week, and aims to make art accessible to all. Nearly three dozen art projects and performances filled public and private spaces across the city.

From the now-familiar painted cows and decorated hearts that have spread through cities across the globe, Jerram says public art is becoming “part of the visual cavalry of contemporary art.” With arts budgets often the first to get slashed when money is tight, it’s an easy way to reach thousands of people. “It demands attention,” he says.

Austin Klipp and Ben Johnson, belting out “Brown Eyed Girl” at a piano in the Harvard Yard agree. “It gives the city a magical feel,” says Mr. Johnson, who brought along his guitar to accompany Mr. Klipp on the piano.

Klipp has played every day since the 2-1/2 week project began. He takes requests from passersby and enjoys hearing others play, too: Little kids bang out “Chopsticks” and unassuming older men play classics with breathtaking skill. “There’s a spontaneous feel to it,” Klipp says. “It’s part of the spirit, and it brings people together.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Let me play you a melody
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today