The Sing for Hope Pianos is a beloved public art installation that brings brightly colored pianos to the parks and public spaces of NYCâ€™s five boroughs for anyone and everyone to play. For two weeks in the summer, the pianos – each a unique art piece created by a different artist or designer – serve as gathering places in their communities, hosting impromptu concerts by professionals and amateurs alike in an open festival of music for all of New York City.
After the two-week public exhibition, we donate the instruments to the NYC organizations we serve year round, allowing the pianos to enrich lives for years to come. While their time on the streets is a joyful event for our city, the Sing for Hope Pianosâ€™ true impact lies in their service as ongoing cornerstones of arts access for communities and individuals in need. As NYCâ€™s largest public art project, the Sing for Hope Pianos impacts an estimated 2 million New Yorkers and visitors each year.
Just announced: This year’s Sing for Hope Pianos exhibit will feature 50 painted Pianos and will run from June 5th through June 21st.
Why We Need Your Help
Just as the Sing for Hope Pianos help create community, bringing neighbors together in a common experience of art and music, it is only through a community effort that the Pianos installation can come to fruition for everyone to enjoy.
A street pianos initiative is an enormous undertaking with considerable costs involved. To execute the project, we must budget for:
- Piano moving – by far our biggest expense!
- Piano technicians – to keep the pianos in playable condition throughout the project
- Materials – paint, art supplies, tools, & hardware…not to mention the pianos themselves!
- Marketing/promotions – we want everyone to know the Pianos are out there for them to enjoy!
- Insurance/permits – to ensure that the project is safe for everyone involved, including our municipal partners
- Additional project staff – extra pianos require extra hands!
Thanks to several generous individuals and our hundreds of Kickstarter supporters, Sing for Hope is thrilled to be bringing the Pianos back to NYC in 2015. However,
WE STILL NEED FUNDS FOR ONE VERY SPECIAL PIANO. For each past installation, our Sing for Hope Youth Chorus has had the opportunity to create their own Piano start to finish (and use it to treat us to some wonderful performances during the exhibit!). The Youth Chorus Piano embodies our mission of “Art for All” by empowering students from under-resourced schools to take ownership over a large-scale art project – which in turn makes access to the arts possible for countless others as the Piano takes its place on the streets and eventually finds its permanent home in a school, community center, or medical care facility. This year, we need your support to make sure we can bring back the Youth Chorus Piano. Here’s how your gift can help:
- $25 supplies art materials for one student
- $50 provides a tarp to keep the Piano protected from the elements
- $100 pays for tuning expenses
- $250 sponsors a Youth Chorus concert featuring the Piano in its summer home
- $500 covers moving the Piano to and from its public location
- $1,000 funds one year of programming at the Piano’s permanent home
The Youth Chorus performs at Greeley Square during the 2013 Pianos exhibit.
How it Works
Even though the pianos only spend two weeks outdoors, the planning of this thrilling event is a yearlong undertaking for Sing for Hope. We start by acquiring the instruments and selecting via an application process the artists who will turn them into beautiful works of art. Once accepted, the piano artists have 6-8 weeks in our open, communal studio space to implement their designs.
In the meantime, our staff is hard at work scouting locations throughout the city for the pianos to live during the installation. Once those sites are chosen (in partnership with the City of New York and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation), we recruit a volunteer ,Piano Buddy in each neighborhood to help watch over the instrument while it ™s outdoors.
Finally, the pianos make their way to their public locations with an attached tarp and bench in tow. After two weeks of art, music, and community, we bring the pianos back to our studio, give them some TLC, and move them once more: to their permanent homes at NYC organizations in need.
Risks and challenges
Putting pianos outside in a densely populated urban environment involves a lot of variables. The weather can be unpredictable, and heavy foot traffic can take their toll on the instruments, even if people do not intend to do them harm.
With three previous Pianos installations under our belts, weâ€™ve learned a lot about the challenges a public art project of this scope entails. We try to anticipate as many scenarios as possible: each piano is outfitted with an attached tarp in case of inclement weather, local Piano Buddies help look after specific pianos during the two weeks, and a mobile team of volunteer staff members and piano technicians constantly checks on the instruments throughout the installation.
What happens if it rains?
Each piano comes outfitted with an attached tarp to protect it from the elements. A volunteer neighborhood ,Piano Buddy is assigned to each piano and tasked with monitoring the weather forecast and covering the piano each night.
Where do you get the pianos?
We acquire used instruments from a combination of local wholesalers and individual donors, as long as the pianos are of high enough quality for use in the project. (Please note that we do not accept piano donations from outside the NY Metro area.)
Arenâ€™t you worried about vandalism?
We take every precaution to ensure the safety of our instruments during their time on the streets. Weâ€™ve actually found that most communities, no matter their location, get extremely attached to their pianos and join forces to ensure their protection.
How do the pianos stay in tune outdoors?
Our mobile team of technicians checks on the pianos regularly throughout the installation, making necessary adjustments and responding to any issues that may arise.
Who paints the pianos?
Our pianos are painted by professional and emerging artists, notable New Yorkers, and constituents from our partner schools and healthcare centers. The 2015 Pianos Artists were chosen in February by an independent jury.
Does the painting affect the sound quality of the instrument?
Piano artists work closely with the Sing for Hope staff and our piano technicians to ensure that their designs do not harm the instrument or detract from its functionality. Any proposals that could potentially damage the piano or modify any of its moving parts are not accepted into the project.
Can anyone play the pianos on the streets?
Yes! The pianos are there for everyone and everyone, regardless of their musical experience. Most people who enjoy the Sing for Hope Pianos are novices or amateurs who just want to have some fun, including many children who are experiencing a piano for the first time!
Why are the pianos only out for two weeks?
We find that two weeks is just enough time for the city to adequately enjoy the pianos while ensuring that they can stay protected enough from the elements to live on after the project.
What happens to the pianos after the installation?
After receiving some TLC from our piano technicians, the pianos get donated to NYC schools, healthcare facilities, community centers, and other deserving organizations in need, where Sing for Hope provides arts programming year round.
Will you bring the Sing for Hope Pianos to other cities?
Currently, the Sing for Hope Pianos has no plans to expand the project beyond New York City.
Iâ€™d like to launch a similar Pianos initiative in my city. Can you give me advice?
Unfortunately, due to liability concerns, we are unable to advise or consult on any public piano projects that are not affiliated with Sing for Hope. Our dedicated staff has spent several years cultivating a city-wide installation that works with the needs, resources, and spirit of New York, but our strategies may not be applicable to other cities around the globe. You know your community better than anyone, so we encourage any intrepid piano planners to think outside the box and find what works best for you and your neighborhood!