The eight pianos that were placed sporadically throughout University City looked way too good to be left outside. I imagine that any piano left on a city sidewalk would be an unsightly 400-pounder that doesn’t play properly, the inside filled with trash and old newspapers, unclaimed by anyone except maybe the Bureau of Sanitation- much unlike the artistic instruments commissioned by Heart & Soul: The University City Public Piano Project.
According to the Heart & Soul project, its main goal was to encourage “creative expression in the public realm.” The kick-off event, which displayed all the pianos together, took place at The Porch on June 6th. For the following two weeks, the pianos were chained down 24 hours a day and open for anyone to play, even though they seemed like something that would be kept in a museum.
Each piano had a distinct aesthetic style designed by a respected artist or team of artists. One was built into a large frame that models a red sports car from the 80’s (cassette deck included). Another resembled a spaceship making a crash landing. Others were covered entirely with yarn or painted vibrant colors.
Newsworks reports that some of the pianos were played for the first time after being “hidden in a warehouse for 30 years.”
Near the 30th Street Station, one black case of hammers and strings sat like a hearse to honor Bessie Smith, the Blues singer who resided- and was buried -in Philadelphia. Following her death in Mississippi in 1937, Smith’s body arrived in Philadelphia at the 30th Street Station, before being transported to her overcrowded funeral. According to the artist’s bio on the Heart & Soul project’s webpage, the piano was decorated with period drums and sheet music as a tribute to the “Empress of the Blues.”
Achieving its goal, the Heart & Soul project was both outlet and inspiration- giving veteran artists the chance to work on an interesting project that allowed passers-by to make their own art.
Every day in July, The Porch will be offering free miniature golf. Perhaps the next artistic installment will use the contents of another forgotten warehouse to build miniature golf courses throughout the city, although, the games might take a while if you have to walk 10 blocks to get from one hole to the next.