Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sing for Hope on a Sunday

During the first two weeks of June, there were 88 pianos scattered around New York City, all available for anyone to play with and enjoy. Representing the number of keys on each piano, some were uprights, other grands, all uniquely designed and decorated by different artists/communities. At the end of the period, the pianos were donated to schools, hospitals and other community institutions.

This was the brain child of Sing For Hope. The aim of the project is to get New Yorkers of all kinds to step up to the keys and play and to give music a special place in the crowded city.
Sing for Hope was founded in 2006 by best friends Camille Zamora and Monica Yunus, internationally acclaimed sopranos who met as students at Juilliard. Camille and Monica share a belief in the power of arts volunteerism to transform communities in need. Recognizing their shared passions, they established Sing for Hope as a resource for artists to engage local communities.

Sponsored by Chobani, this year's activities started with Stanley The Piano at the Chobani SoHo store. From the Chobani blog ..
Why us, you ask? When we caught wind of Sing For Hope’s mission to bring good things to good people everywhere, we knew we had to be a part of it. Sharing the same passion for food, art and music; we also believe everyone should have access - to ALL of it.

This vision of ‘Art for All’ represents the belief that the arts have unique power to uplift, unite, and transform individuals and communities. New York City serves as the perfect stage for which the Sing For Hope Pianos can be played and enjoyed. They’re opening the door to a 16-day concert for New Yorkers. To think, the city that never sleeps is now dancing with musicians everywhere.
On the second Sunday of June, the second week that the pianos have been placed around the city, I decided to go and see how many of these pianos I could visit in one day.

I started my quest at the Dairy House at Central Park, where I saw Opus No. 1 by Izabel Lam. The piano is painted with fish and other sea creatures with Opus the Octopus occupying the top spot.
About my piano: Diving has afforded me a glimpse of the amazing life under the water surface in its glory of color, size, shape, texture, and on a higher plane, adaptability and evolution.  The piano is to share the diversity of the world below the sea with the images that I have seen and hopefully to spark an interest in the ocean - the music of life.

The Dairy House is the perfect venue for a piano. It is Central Park's Visitor Center and Gift Shop and has a lot of traffic. When I was there that day, there was this young man playing the piano and a lot of park visitors listening to him play.

I then proceeded to the northernmost park in Manhattan, Inwood Hill Park,  for my second piano of the day. The piano design was by Anya Ayoung Chee, the winner of Project Runway Season 9.

The kids there were interested about the piano and I stayed for a while and watched this boy set aside his scooter so he can play while his friend looked on. After doing his piece, he told me he had piano lessons and what he played was an original composition. Cool, huh?

After Inwood Hill, I walked towards neighboring Fort Tryon Park for my third piano of the day. The piano was placed under the leafy shade of some trees and a lady was playing, complete with her piano sheets.

The piano was designed by art teacher Kyle Netzeband.
About my piano: The piano features a series of portraits and a playful application of colorful paint. The portraits are several faces smiling, laughing or singing and the entire piano is painted in an expressive style that portrays the vibrant energy of these faces.

After Fort Tryon Park, I took the A and C trains and walked east on 163rd Street towards the Morris-Jumel Mansion which housed one of the pianos. The mansion, located in Washington Heights, is the oldest house in Manhattan. Outside by the gate is a plaque which states:
Built in 1765, this Georgian masterpiece was George Washington's headquarters in 1776. Later, it was the home of the colorful Eliza Jumel. It is a National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a proud New York City and State Landmark.
The piano at the mansion was designed by artist Samson Contompasis.
About my piano: This piano is a part of a larger project called "the dead city". In the late 60's 98 acres of downtown Albany NY was cleared to make way for the empire state plaza state office complex. These are the ghost like images of city blocks that don't exist anymore. I paint them as if they were a memory or a hazy recollection while giving these missing city blocks a purpose once again.

The Morris-Jumel mansion is in the Jumel Terrace Historic District of the city and right outside are the Sylvan Terraces.
Sylvan Terrace was originally a carriage path leading to the front of the nearby  Morris-Jumel mansion, built in 1765.  The area was largely rural until 1882, when the land surrounding the mansion was broken up and sold. Developer James E. Ray commissioned 20 uniform high-stooped row houses on what became Sylvan Terrace. The new owners of these properties were largely middle class, and included a feed dealer and a grocer, according to a NY Times article.

The historic district was just a short walk to Mitchel Square Park where I saw my fifth piano that day, in front of the New York Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center. It was nice to see people coming from/going to the hospital smile when they stop by for a bit to tinkle the keys.

It was designed by Gladys Pasapera and contains lots of wonderful quotations.
About my piano: The concept of this whimsical piano stems from my curiosity and exploration of art and life.  It is in our nature to be curious as we live and create each day.  The quotes are just a few of the many in mind whenever I am working in the art studio, in the classroom, outside the classroom, or during everyday interactions with people.  We play in music the same way we play in art.  No matter the age, 'play' is a fundamental part of exploring and living the every day life.

I then took the 1 train to go to Highbridge Park. The huge mosaic by Raul Colon entitled Primavera dominates one wall of the stairwell of the subway station. 

The piano was located in the Raoul Wallenberg playground, so from the train station I walked east towards Amsterdam Avenue. It was great to see the playground full of kids and people. The last time I was at the park to walk along the Highbridge Trail, there were very few people enjoying the area. 

This guy was playing Fur Elise when I got to the piano.

The piano was sponsored by the United Cerebral Palsy of New York City, a nonprofit agency in New York City providing direct services, technology and advocacy to children and adults with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
About us: Sing for Hope is proud to bring its Healing Arts program to United Cerebral Palsy of New York City.  The Healing Arts program brings live performance to patients and care-givers in healthcare facilities.  Public concerts and bedside performances by Volunteer Artists are tailored to patient and community needs, providing uplift and complementing the healing process.
Flowers and butterfly designs are painted all over the piano.

Then it's back to the 1 train to go to Montefiore Park at 137th Street and Broadway. There was a guy playing when I got to the piano and as I was listening to him play, another guy stopped, listened and before long they were talking like old friends. It was nice to see people who were complete strangers before now bond over music.

The piano was designed by New York based artist Jaquan Washington.
About my piano: (Dont Look Just Listen) The concept for the piano was derived from a series of painting I was recently working on called Forms in Color. The piano was primed and then given a generous splattering of paint to build up texture and lay the foundations for the figures that would be rendered afterward. Based primarily on the interactions of the paint splatter I added figures in black paint to create contrast that would set them apart from the multitude of colors. Each of the figures have their eyes closed and wear an expression that alludes to their feelings while listening to the music. You can think of the overall design as making the statement that you can have many feelings affinities and apprehensions to a musician when seen but what really matters is what you hear and how it makes you feel.

From Montefiore Park, I walked northwest to Riverbank State Park along the Hudson River Greenway. It is a huge park, built over the North River Waste Water Treatment Plant and has lots of recreational, athletic and art facilities. I passed by a lot of ball courts and a skating rink before I saw the piano, nestling under some trees.

The piano was designed by artists PĂ©rola Bonfanti and Nicolina Johnson.
About our piano: The Cosmic Double Golden Rainbow Dragon Piano
Mixing the elements of space and sacred geometry, this piano embodies the fruit of life.
I think it was the only piano among the 88 where the side panels are movable, and with beautiful dragon designs, too!

Riverbank State Park has awesome views of the Hudson River and George Washington Bridge. If I hadn't plan to look for more pianos, I would have stayed there until nightfall. It felt so peaceful looking across the Hudson River, and seeing the Little Red Lighthouse from far away was a pleasant surprise.

The park also has great views of Washington Heights facing the Hudson River.

From there, I took the 1 train to the Cathedral Parkway to look for the piano at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. The piano was in the People's Garden but it was already closed by the time I arrived. I just took a picture of the Peace Fountain over the fence and closed gate.

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine was also closed so I just enjoyed the artwork on the church's facade. Here's the tympanum above its center door.

From the cathedral, I walked to nearby Morningside Park for my ninth piano of the day. The piano looks yummy with hamburgers, french fries and pizza all over, as designed by the Thrillist Media Group.
About My Piano: Covered in burgers, pretzels, pizza and more, the Thrillist piano is a whimsical tribute to a day spent picnicking in New York City.

I think the little boy was wishing the burgers were real. There were also twin girls who enjoyed tinkling the keys, seeing them was double the fun!

Morningside Park is just several blocks to the Central Park Tennis Center where another piano was located. The piano, designed by artist Paolo Pecchi, was already covered when I arrived as it was already evening but I was able to take off the tarp and get some pics.

About my piano: To come up with an idea for this work i have been thinking about the instrument in itself and about the sounds coming from a Piano. Also the complete name of the Piano , "Pianoforte", quiet/soft  strong/loud, gave me some thinking ideas. I made many sketches investigating the duality of the quiet/loud and warm/cold sounds in quiet/loud chromatic translations, however the final final decision came after considerations of the context and the idea to try to make something fun, eye catching, and less intellectual.
It even comes with a saucer, cup and spoon. You have to bring your own coffee, though. :-)

The Central Park Tennis Center abuts the northwest end of the Reservoir so after putting back the tarp on the piano, I had a short walk around the Reservoir. Night was falling fast and by the time I snapped a pic, it was already dark, which made the lights from the midtown buildings shine like jewels as they reflect on the water.

It seems to me this pic looks more like a painting than a photo, what do you think?

I started and ended my quest that Sunday at Central Park, and visited ten pianos around the city that day. That was so much fun! So much so that I continued going to the other piano locations during that week and ended up visiting 25 pianos. Next year, I hope I can visit all locations. Crossing my fingers!

For the rest of my Sing For Hope piano pics, here's the album on Flickr - Sing for Hope Pianos

On Father's Day, June 16, all the pianos were brought to Lincoln Center for an all-day celebration of the arts and music. What a great way to celebrate Father's Day! I think the little guy in this pic agrees!

For my pics that day, here's the album on Google - SFH at Lincoln Center

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