What originally started as a relocation task gone wrong became a worldwide social phenomenon that will be part of this year’s Pride festivities. In Sheffield, England, after Doug Pearman realized that his newly acquired secondhand piano couldn’t be moved into his new flat in 2003, he simply left it on the sidewalk out front. Soon enough, people passing by would go up and play whatever song was in their heart on the musical instrument. At that moment, the Street Piano was born.
The tale garnered worldwide attention across social media and inspired artist Luke Jerram to develop the “Play Me, I’m Yours” project with the goal of introducing Street Piano installations around the world. Today, you can find them in Brazil, Spain, England, Canada, and throughout the United States. In total, there are more than 1,900 pianos scattered across streets throughout the world.
For the 2019 Greater Palm Springs Pride celebration, local artists Marconi Calindas and Stephen Baumbach have come together to add their artistic touches to a couple of the 88-key instruments on display during Pride. Marconi says, “I have always been an advocate for LGBT rights, and this piano is a perfect avenue to express and promote our triumphs and strife at the same time.”
Baumbach says he found design inspiration in “the age of the piano, the age of the Pride movement, [and] a revolution in being accepted.” For Marconi, his piano motif features “butterflies that depict the transformation of our brothers and sisters in our community to be more accepted not only by the society but also from within themselves.”
What do they want spectators to take away from their pianos? “First, we want them to play with it,” Marconi says. “Next, for them to know that LGBT artists and this instrument can make beautiful music together.” Mostly, Marconi hopes that the pianos are a reminder that Pride makes everyone feel like they belong. “If my art can bring joy to young LGBT [people], I will never stop creating.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARCONI CALINDAS
Marconi Calindas' piano Harmony.
The project is the latest in a long line of Pride-inspired art installations. Throughout the years, many visual artists have linked their work with Pride celebrations. “History is our best teacher, and visual art in any form records the history and progress made in any movement,” Baumbach says. “Pride is no different. We see in images over the years how strife and agony has changed into progress and equality.”
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When asked why he wanted to put his design on a piano, Marconi says, “It’s about time we promote art by LGBT artists in town, and I believe the piano is an excellent way to do it, especially during Pride weekend.” He adds, “It’s an honor to be part of this project that highlights not only our pride, but also local artists.”
Don’t be shy!
The project invites the public to share their love of music and the visual arts as part of their Greater Palm Springs Pride experience. Located in downtown Palm Springs, the pianos will be available for everyone to play and enjoy.