On a sunny but breezy Saturday, 10-year-old Diego Grijalva of Gabriella Charter School in Echo Park found himself at 5900 Wilshire Blvd., seated at a piano designed by local artist Evan Skrederstu. Diego, who has played on his school's piano, was intrigued by the street piano and was playing a simple tune.
The piano, strategically placed adjacent to a line of food trucks across from LACMA is one of about 30 currently ensconced all over Los Angeles as part of the international public art installation "Play Me, I'm Yours."
Founded by Luke Jerram in 2008, the pianos have brought spontaneous street music to cities all over the world, including London, Barcelona, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Austin and Cincinnati.
Launched on April 12 after more than a year of preparation, the pianos are all over the city, at locations including L.A. Live, UCLA, USC, the Santa Monica Pier and Union Station. The goal is simple: to bring people together by creating the opportunity for spontaneous music-playing. The pianos are available 24 hours a day for the next three weeks, and anyone is invited to play.
The program, sponsored by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, features pianos donated mostly by the Hollywood Piano Company. The uprights were decorated by local artists and community organizations, turning the pianos into works of art ranging from Chinatown's colorful dragon (perhaps a bit too on-the-nose?) to an evening skyline at Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights. Each piano comes with a protective plastic cover in case of rain.
Once the program ends, the pianos move on to schools and community groups, or are auctioned off. While New York and other cities have had more pianos, Los Angeles' pianos have a wider gamut of community involvement, from local artists like Frank Cubillos to organizations such as the Braille Institute of America and Homeboy Industries.
On Saturday, 15-year-old Jordan came with his parents and younger brother from Orange County just to play the piano. After seeing the pianos on the news, Jordan put his four years of piano playing to good use. "It's pretty neat," says Jordan, after playing a recital-worthy mini-concert.
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Isaiah, a 17-year-old senior at Summit High School in Fontana, had been to visit LACMA and was grabbing lunch at the trucks when he decided to tickle the ivories, despite claiming he didn't know how to play. A fan of street art, he was excited to see the painted pianos after taking in LACMA's surrealist exhibit "In Wonderland." "Music is sort of the same as surrealism," he said. "There are no ground rules to it. You can just do whatever you want to with it, but it resonates just as much."