Wednesday, February 10, 2016


      For the past month, San Diego has been the city of colorful pianos in public places, sponsored by the San Diego Symphony to  promote the Upright & Grand Piano Festival. The symphony distributed ten pianos to local community groups and artists to paint. Next, they moved them to popular public locations throughout the city, for all to enjoy and play.

     Intrigued by the idea of painted pianos, I decided to head out on a downtown-walking tour to see how many I could find.
I started at the Broadway Pier and then headed over to the Headquarters in Seaport Village for a look at the piano located in the center's open-air courtyard. When I arrived, the piano was still covered for the night with a canvas, however, the guard removed it at 9:15 am. This artfully-designed piano is the work of David at A Reason to Survive (ARTS), an arts program for youth facing adversity. The black spinet piano had large blue fingers painted above the keyboard, and a sizable, white and blue eyeball, looking up from the bench. There was a “PLAY ME” sign sitting on top—the same sign I encountered on all of the public pianos.

     Next, I headed over to the Contemporary Museum of Art to see the public piano display in the lobby, unfortunately, the museum is closed on Wednesdays. I then walked up Broadway to Westfield Horton Plaza to search out another public display that I found in the outdoor mall close to Macy's. This white piano was covered with whimsical designs in green, red, pink, and yellow, that were painted by the staff and residents at PATH Connections Housing, a community program supporting the homeless.

     My musical tour of pianos in open spaces, next brought me to the grand lobby of the Symphony Towers, also home to the San Diego Symphony, sponsor of this event. Here the upright piano has been colorfully painted in shades of orange and blue by local artists: Anna Stoa, Grace Gray-Adams, and Grace Mathews.

   So far, I hadn't seen anyone playing the pianos; however, my luck changed when I headed up to the Quartyard in the East Village. Here I was pleased to see a young man sitting at the bench playing the piano using sheet music he had brought with him. He told me that his apartment was too small for a piano and he misses having one to play—I told him that I felt the same way.

     East Village is also home to the Central library so I headed over to their outside sitting area to check out another piece of art by young artists from the New Children's Museum. This piano was delightfully painted in bright pinks, yellows, blues, greens, and purple.

     I couldn't help but wish that there was a small room available, somewhere in the huge new library complex, where they could move this piano to at the end of the event. Patrons of the library could then reserve the room with a library card, and enjoy playing a piano. The Minneapolis Central Library has such a room available, and I think San Diego should do the same. I've met a lot of people who no longer have room for a piano, myself included, but would love to have a piano to play on occasion. 

     From here I headed over to catch the 5th Avenue Ferry to Coronado to look at the piano located at the Ferry Landing. It was painted by second graders at Urban Discovery Academy Charter School of San Diego with white-etched circles and student names written on a black background. I then sat down and played “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” The next day, when I was at Balboa Park, I took a look at one last piano, painted in blue with white speckles, that was sitting in the famous Old Globe courtyard.

     Although I missed a few, I managed to see seven of the pianos in public spaces. The display has closed, however, I heard that the pianos are being donated to local community centers for all to enjoy. (I will wait a response from the public library to see if they have a space for one small piano room.)

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