Thursday, September 23, 2021

Local News

Street Piano Invites Plunkers and Prodigies

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Raeleen St. Pierre’s Fred Astaire Dance Studio, is Host for the “Play me. I’m Yours!” street art piano. St. Pierre suggests perhaps playing host to the piano project is a sign—she’s always wanted to learn to play, but never had the time to learn. Perhaps now she will. Photo by Becky Coffey/Harbor News

Raeleen St. Pierre’s Fred Astaire Dance Studio, is Host for the “Play me. I’m Yours!” street art piano. St. Pierre suggests perhaps playing host to the piano project is a sign—she’s always wanted to learn to play, but never had the time to learn. Perhaps now she will. (Photo by Becky Coffey/Harbor News)

What would you do if you saw a piano on Main Street with “Play Me” painted on it? Would you sit down and play a few notes—and then look around, thinking perhaps you weren’t supposed to play? No need to have those worries with Main Street’s new piano. Play to your heart’s content—and to the limit of your skills. It’s participatory street art!

The international Piano Project, “Play Me, I’m Yours,” first landed on Old Saybrook’s Main Street one month ago. Liz Swenson, vice-chair of the Economic Development Commission, spearheaded the idea.

“The Play Me, I’m Yours project is part of an international movement to engage people with the Arts on Main Street,” said Swenson. “We hope this is the first of many public art projects to enhance public spaces in the town.”

While serving on the EDC, Swenson had become interested in bringing street art to town. In her travels, she had seen pianos installed on the streets in Boston and in New York City and had observed the positive public engagement the project sparked. So she decided to try it here.

To bring it to Old Saybrook’s Main Street though she first needed two things—a piano and then a Main Street merchant willing to host it.

The piano she found at a New Haven church that had declared it surplus. Latham Moving brought it to Old Saybrook.

Next she found a willing Main Street host in Raeleen St. Pierre, owner of the Fred Astaire Dance Studio franchise, Bloom Ballroom. The next step was to transform the old piano into art with a creative design. That brought in Kim Meadows, a local artist and calligrapher, to the project. She agreed to collaborate with St. Pierre on a piano paint design that would attract attention on the street, but also be at home in the dance studio where it rested when not on the sidewalk.

“Kim was amazing. She talked with me about colors and design, whimsical and tasteful. She pitched it perfectly,” said St. Pierre.

At the beginning of November, the piano as street art appeared on Main Street, and, according to St. Pierre, it’s been attracting visitors and players of all ages ever since.

“People are excited when they find the piano. The youngest play one song. Most stay and play for about 10 minutes, a few, for 20 minutes. Even late on Sunday nights, we hear kids play,” said St. Pierre.

“The piano has had a delightful reaction. Every day people come and play the piano. I’ve put quite of few of these people playing on our Facebook page,” said St. Pierre.

Susie Beckman, the town’s economic development coordinator, says the Play Me, I’m Yours program has installed 1,500 pianos in more than 50 towns and cities around the world for people to play and enjoy as public art. The Boston installation included dozens of pianos placed around the city that were decorated by a local artist.

St. Pierre says she hopes to roll the piano out onto the street as long as she can this fall. Since her husband helped her by installing a small ramp at the studio’s front door, rolling it in and out is easier.

Though the piano may soon be spending the cold days of winter indoors at the studio, if there’s a warm winter day, watch for St. Pierre to roll it out for all to enjoy.


Becky Coffey covers news for Old Saybrook and Westbrook for Zip06. Email Becky at b.coffey@shorepublishing.com.

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