by Stephanie Petrovick
After debuting at the Art Show on April 28, the painted pianos made by the National Art Honors Society moved to their permanent locations, the Unitarian church and Avidia Bank. The students decorated the Unitarian church’s piano with symbols of peace, love, and hope, and Avidia Bank’s piano celebrates Hudson’s 150th anniversary. These organizations requested the designs, but the idea for the project started before then.
It began with Erin Yates’ discovery of a YouTube video of a homeless man playing a complex song on a beautifully painted piano in Sarasota, Florida. Yates looked further into this and discovered that the piano belonged to an organization called “Play Me, I’m Yours” based in the UK. The organization decorates pianos and then places them on the streets in different cities for the public to use. This project began as an artwork exhibit by the British artist Luke Jerram and includes over 1,500 pianos in 50 cities worldwide.
Inspired by the idea, Yates talked to other people and messaged with “Play Me, I’m Yours” for advice, but she is not working with the organization because of how much money that would cost.
“I like the idea that we’re painting on something that’s not paper, or canvas, or even a mural. We’re painting on something different, and we’re adding music to it. And I like that it’s community oriented, and we’re working with businesses on this. I had to meet with Avidia Bank and the Unitarian church, and we have to have a partnership with them to make this work. And Hudson Appliance actually helped us get the pianos from people’s houses and to the high school, so it’s something like a real team effort,” Yates said. “The Chamber of Commerce in Hudson has also participated and helped us organize where to put some of these pianos.”
Yates started contacting people, looking for private businesses who would allow the pianos to be placed outside their building. The pianos would be placed out of the way in any extra space next to the buildings. With residents donating pianos, Yates and the students started the project in December and were able to get two pianos from families around town with the help of Hudson Appliance, with two more waiting to be moved because of a lack of storage space at the school.
“If that [the first two pianos] goes well, we will hopefully work with some other businesses and put some pianos there. I’ve been talking to Medusa about putting a piano outside on the sidewalk there, and maybe putting one outside here at the high school, just outside the cafeteria in the rotunda,” Yates said.
The students worked together to plan and paint the designs for the pianos, but the process is not always perfect.
“I did something on the other piano where I fixed something someone did because it didn’t look very good, so I was like ‘I’m gonna fix this,’ and it’s really nice to see it all coming together,” National Art Honors Society member Jillian Giorgio said.
The first two pianos have been completed and moved to their new homes on the streets outside Avidia Bank and the Unitarian church. Now the only problem is how the pianos will survive the elements.
“They are using paint that will not come off in the rain, and that’s why we’re using mural paints and acrylic paints. And we prime the pianos first, so we can be sure the paint won’t come off while they are outside. The pianos will also have buddies there, and the buddies might be our students or they might be people from the organization or both. And those piano buddies will cover up the pianos when it rains and just check up on them, make sure they’re okay, things like that,” Yates said.
With more pianos on the way, downtown Hudson will be filled with art and music for a long time.