For six straight years, the South Orange Performing Arts Center has been taking perfectly good pianos and putting them out on the streets of South Orange.
It’s a unique and creative way for SOPAC to reach out to its community. Not only are residents literally tripping over art — viewing and playing the pianos — but visual artists are engaging with the performing arts in an exciting way. The donated pianos are transformed into pieces of art before being displayed on sidewalks of South Orange for six weeks and then auctioned off to raise funds.
Playin’ Around South Orange 2018 kicked off on August 25 with outdoor performances — by pianists Theo Walentiny; Campbell Charshee of Mark Murphy Music; Mark Madonna; and Patricia Brady-Danzig — in five separate South Orange locations. The five painted pianos are available 24/7 for all musicians and residents to enjoy and play at any time through October 7, 2018.
The colorful and eye-catching pianos can be found at Spiotta Park, Irvington and W. Fairview Avenues, the Village Service Center on South Orange Avenue and the Sloan Street Gazebo. Details are listed on the SOPAC website at SOPACnow.org/community/
2018 Playin’ Around South Orange artists are:
- BILL BILLEC painted the piano located at the Bishop Dougherty University Center at SHU
- ARTS COUNCIL OF EAST ORANGE Members, Gwendolyn ‘Arri’ Jackson and Irene Pomianowski lead the team (Jae Bianca Jackson, Helena L Branch, Jeffrey ‘Sizzy’ Osborne and Marsha Wilderson) that painted the piano located at the Sloan Street Gazebo
- ELINA ROSENBLUM AND VERONIKA HAPCO painted the piano located at Spiotta Park
- JESSICA SKULTETY painted the piano located at the Village Service Center
- KIRK MAYNARD painted the piano located at Irvington & W. Fairview Avenues
Wednesday night Jam sessions will make use of the piano at the Sloan Street Gazebo, where visitors to the South Orange Farmers Market will get to enjoy the music while shopping.
According to Linda Beard,Director of SOPAC Community Engagement, on average each artist donates up to 30+ hours per piano to bring their artistic vision to life. Art supplies and materials are generally provided by local businesses.
All pianos are donated. Beard solicits donations throughout the year — however, donors must be able to store the pianos until they are placed; SOPAC is unable to store pianos due to space limitations.
Her goal for the program is “to interrupt your day-to-day routine and encourage people to interact with different genres of art in a unique way.” Spontaneous sing-a-longs can happen at any time! She says with obvious enthusiasm, “We love bringing the art outside for everyone to enjoy. Five minutes spent listening to music on the streets is a guaranteed stress-buster.”
Each piano includes a SOPAC-supplied blue tarp that can be pulled over the piano in bad weather. “That’s exactly the kind of behavior we encourage,” notes Beard. “We want the community to take ownership of this experience and realize that these instruments are not ‘ours;’ they belong to South Orange.”
Playin’ Around South Orange is sponsored by Patti Donovan. Other community supporters of the project include the Village of South Orange, South Orange Village Center Alliance and Seton Hall University.
More information on the pianos is available on the SOPAC website at Sopacnow.org/community/