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'Play Me, I'm Yours'

Giving 'keys to the city' a whole new meaning

By Robert Faires, Fri., April 1, 2011

Artist/piano technician Johnny Walker and passerby Francisco Chavez playing the piano at the Play Me, I'm Yours project on the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge
Artist/piano technician Johnny Walker and passerby Francisco Chavez playing the piano at the "Play Me, I'm Yours" project on the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge
Photo by John Anderson

Yes, that's a piano on the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, and yes, you may play it. After all, it's yours, as the title of this interactive art project explicitly states. "Play Me, I'm Yours" is the brainchild of UK artist Luke Jerram, who launched it three years ago by installing 15 pianos in assorted public spaces around Birmingham, England – at skate parks, bus shelters, train stations, and laundries, outside pubs and football grounds, etc. – with the idea that the instruments belonged to the community and could be played by anyone at any time for any length of time for free. In addition, Jerram created a website, www.streetpianos.com, where people could document their interactions with the instruments through written comments, photos, and videos. The public pianos were so warmly received – only one was vandalized, and the rest were not only played daily but decorated – that the project spread quickly to cities around the world, including São Paolo, Brazil; Sydney, Australia; London; Barcelona, Spain; New York City; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Cincinnati, Ohio; and more. This week, Austin becomes the 17th community to import the project thanks to the commissioning efforts of Art Alliance Austin for this week's Art City Austin and Art Week Austin in late April. The project has been curated locally by artist Johnny Walker (creator of the First Night Austin projects Acoustic Chandelier, Sea Monster, and Stars), who selected 15 locations in the central city for the pianos to live: on the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, at the foot of the Pfluger Bridge's spiral ramp on the north shore, on the Shoal Creek peninsula, in the Johnson Creek Greenbelt under MoPac, at the gazebo at Lou Neff Point in Zilker Park, atop Doug Sahm Hill in Butler Park, on the Long Center's City Terrace, at the Fannie Davis Gazebo on Auditorium Shores, in the observation area of the First Street Pedestrian Bridge, at City Hall Plaza, at the corner of Second and Lavaca near the W Hotel, in Republic Square Park, at the corner of Fourth and Congress by the Frost Bank Tower, in the gazebo at Wooldridge Square, and by the BMX trails in Duncan Park. A full map of the locations is posted at www.playmeaustin.com, where you can also post your experiences. They'll be in place for the month of April, at the end of which they'll be given a big send-off by Golden Hornet Project.

So sit down and play some Chopin. Or "Chopsticks" – whatever strikes your fancy. After all, that piano is yours.

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