A good idea is always worth borrowing, so when Artsplosure program director Terri Dollar saw street pianos in other cities, she knew she wanted the project here.
I thought it was the coolest thing, Dollar says. And part of the mission of Artsplosure is to do things that are imaginative, that enrich the community and that give a surprise. I thought That would go over in Raleigh big time!
And so began the origins of the Raleigh Street Piano Project, an art installation that puts pianos, whimsically painted by non-profit groups, on the streets for anyone to enjoy. The six pianos will be around downtown Raleigh in the courtyard at Marbles Kids Museum, on Lichtin Plaza (in front of Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts) and City Plaza (on Fayetteville Street), at City Market and Moore Square and at the Municipal Building on Hargett Street for about two weeks.
There have been a few versions of the street piano project, but in general, its an international movement. Pianos have been on the streets of such cities as Salt Lake City, San Jose and Sao Paolo; Austin, Cincinnati, New York, London and Paris. (A 2011 version in Durham featured one man with a rolling piano.)
The Raleigh pianos were either donated or bought for next to nothing.
I became the Craiglist queen, Dollar says. Artsplosure wanted to engage groups that worked with people with disabilities or other challenges, so those groups or painted the pianos. The Community Music School, Arts Access and Triangle Community Work Force all participated. Artsplosure sponsored its own piano with the painting done by Enloe High school senior Henry Shearon. When the project is over, the groups have the option of keeping the pianos.
In some cities, Dollar says, musical combos have come to the pianos and held impromptu street performances, and couples have gotten engaged. Artsplosure is asking people to post interesting moments at the piano to its Facebook page.
Dollar believes the projects charms come from a variety of sources. Theres the delight of finding something typically in a concert hall or living room in an unexpected place, for one. And theres the accessibility of the instrument. The neat thing about a piano is that it can make beautiful sound just by pressing a key, she says. Its an invitation to the community to support the arts and play.
The Raleigh Street Piano Project isnt the only musical installation this year. Squonk Opera, a kid-friendly, loaded monster truck described as a musical street spectacle on wheels will land on City Plaza, starting Friday.
And then, theres the assortment of more traditional music talent on the various stages, culminating Sunday with a performance of the legendary reggae band, the Wailers.
How, then, should one sum up the 34th edition of Artsplosure?
Its a smackdown of music, Dollar says.
When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Downtown Raleigh, Moore Square and City Plaza.
Squonk Operas GO Roadshow!
When: Performances at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday; noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday.
Where: City Plaza, 400 block of Fayetteville Street.
When: noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Where: Marbles Kids Museum, Main Courtyard, 201 E. Hargett St.
Artsplosure is a three-day festival celebrating live music and visual art. Besides an art market featuring 170 juried artists and crafters, expect more than a dozen music acts on two stages and food trucks galore. For a complete schedule go to www.artsplosure.org
Johnson Martin or 919-829-4751. On Twitter: @amajomartin