SOPAC’s annual program, Playin’ Around South Orange, launches once again Saturday, August 25, 2018 at noon, bringing live music and art in the form of hand-painted pianos and outdoor performances to five separate South Orange locations. The project runs through Sunday, October 7, 2018.

Kick-off festivities will include live performances by professional musicians at each of the piano locations from noon until 1PM on Saturday, August 25, 2018. The visual artists will also be in attendance at their pianos. With simultaneous mini-concerts happening all over town, the day is sure to be music and art-inspired.

Each year, local artists complete an application process for the honor of transforming an old piano into a contemporary piece of art. On average each artist donates 30 or more hours per piano to bring this musical event to life. Paint and supplies either come from the artists themselves or are donated by local businesses.

Pianos are donated by various individuals from throughout the community. Director of SOPAC Community Engagement, Linda Beard, keeps her eyes and ears open for possible donations all year long, sometimes asking people to “hold on to” their instruments for several months for lack of storage space until the summer comes around again. Her goal for the program is “to interrupt the humdrum day-to-day and allow people the opportunity to interact with different genres of art in a unique way.” She says with obvious enthusiasm, “It’s about bringing what we do inside the [SOPAC] building outside the building.”

Weather is an obvious challenge for the instruments. SOPAC staff try to watch the forecast while the pianos are out, but occasionally a compassionate citizen will take notice of an impending storm and spontaneously pull a SOPAC-supplied blue tarp over the artwork, preserving it for a few more improvisational concerts. “That’s exactly the kind of behavior we are looking to ignite,” notes Beard. “We want the community to take ownership of this experience and realize that these instruments are not ‘ours;’ they belong to South Orange.”

Read more, view NJTV coverage, and see a map of the piano locations