During the month of June, everyone from amateurs to professionals had a chance to get creative in a natural environment.
The piano, named “People of New York,” was designed by visual artist and New York City resident Sashalynillo.
“It's based on people that I see and draw on the subway on my way to work or heading home,” she said. “Everyone is in their own little world, on their phones, reading, sleeping, or just too tired to pay attention to what's going on around them.
“New Yorkers don't like to be stared at, so I still have to be sneaky about it,” she added. “Over the years, I've collected tons of drawings of people, so I figured why not put these babies to use and stick them on a piano.”
The project began when Parks manager Minerva del Real and Sara Baral, outreach coordinator for Partnership for Parks, were approached by Sing for Hope.
“Both representatives separately suggested Yellowstone Park, since we have an active, engaged community,” said Alexa Weitzman, who founded the Yellowstone Park Alliance last year.
On June 15, Sashalynillo discussed her project in the park.
“Everyone drew with black marker on white poster board and created a work that looked similar to Sashalynillo's beautiful piano,” Weitzman said. “It's not often that a community gets together to create something, hear from an artist, and flex their artistic muscles.”
On June 24, 25 students from Further Music School in Forest Hills performed.
“I wanted to show my students a different kind of performance, and I am proud that they had the confidence and courage,” said Carrie Shi, the school's artistic director. “It’s great how we can become more involved with the community.”
“It’s more fun to play outside than inside, and afterwards I can play in the park,” said seven-year-old Nitta Spencer, who played “Amazing Grace.”
Ten-year-old Temulun Togochog sang “Beauty & the Beast.”
“Some people cannot afford to have a piano in their home, so they can play piano in the park if it was here year-round,” she said.
“If people have free time, they can hear beautiful music, and if you are stressed, it can help,” added nine-year-old Chloe Lee, who played “Traumerei.”
In June, Sing for Hope placed 60 artist-designed pianos throughout the city's public spaces, and 2017 marked the 400th piano placed in parks through the program. Weather can pose a challenge, but each piano comes with “a customized raincoat” and their maintenance is volunteer driven. Last year, a piano secured a permanent home at PS 174 in Rego Park.
“We have an open application for schools to apply to receive a Sing for Hope piano, and each year we have an open application for volunteer artists to participate,” said program manager Lester Vrtiak. “We are currently fundraising to have the pianos possibly occur outside of our summertime installation tradition.”
Throughout 2016, Sing for Hope hosted collaborative performances and workshops with over 7,000 New Yorkers in health facilities and provided hands-on arts education to more than 1,300 students.
“Sing for Hope Pianos are not just a temporary event enlivening the city, but an ongoing presence enriching communities,” Vrtiak said. “This is art as community building, or as our mission statement has it, art for all.”