Sing for Hope places 7 pianos in borough

One of the pianos in Joyce Kilmer Park.
Photo courtesy of Pianos for Hope

Brightly colored pianos are dotting the landscape of the borough, and may soon be in some of its schools.

Sing for Hope, an organization that annually has elaborately artist-decorated pianos placed at public locations around the city, situated seven pianos in the borough through Sunday, June 25.

The pianos are part of an annual temporary installation to draw attention to the work Sing for Hope does year-round to bring artistic programs to under-resourced schools and communities.

Monica Yunus, one of the co-founders of Sing for Hope, said that the pianos were part of 60 the organization has placed around the entire city.

Specifically, they were installed at Bartow Pell Mansion, Virginia Park, Willis Avenue Community Garden, Joyce Kilmer Park, Poe Park Visitor Center, Williamsbridge Oval Recreation Center and Van Cortlandt House Museum.

The goal of placing the pianos in public places is designed to encourage conversations that would not otherwise take place, and for individuals to share music, she said.

People have come to expect the pianos as a summertime project, much like any great annual event, she said.

“It is really an invitation to get involved, to have a conversation and get to know one another,” said Yunus. “It gives people an opportunity to get to know someone they wouldn’t necessarily approach otherwise.”

After the pianos are removed from their stations, they will have a second life as educators at schools around the city apply to obtain one for their classroom, she said.

In October and November, the winning schools will have ribbon-cutting ceremonies to welcome their new ‘ebony and ivory’.

One of the local artists who designed the upright piano stationed in Virginia Park outside of Parkchester was Laura Alvarez, an artist from Melrose.

Alvarez said she is a visual artist who works with a variety of mediums, including murals, on canvas and wood, and in mixed media.

“I saw them in the street five years ago, and I thought it was just such an amazing idea,” said Alvarez, adding that this is the third time she has volunteered to paint a piano.

Applying to paint or decorate for Sing for Hope involves creating a flexible design sketch that could be used on any upright piano, and having your artwork chosen by a selection committee, she said.

The Virginia Park design was centered on the theme ‘nature is watching you,’ she said.

The paintings on the piano evoke the sense that people have to be conscious of the effect of their actions on nature, she said.

Among the designs include a picture of hands with eyes on it, designed to be evocative of intuition, according to the artist.

Painting a piano is a long process that involves sanding, priming, painting or decorating, and then finishing it off with two to three coats of varnish for it to withstand being outdoors, said Alvarez.

She said she attended two events hosted by Sing for Hope at her piano in the park, she said.

At one of the events, a pianist came to play for children and adults, who were given a chance to design their own upright piano on paper after the concert.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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