North student localizes global “street piano” project in Newton

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Hannah Liu

Pianists are invited to spontaneously perform on the piano in the theatre entrance, which is covered in paintings inspired by children’s writer Jan Brett. Rimmed with leaf and crown decorations, the piano is decorated with classic fairy tale characters: Little Red Riding Hood walking to her grandmother’s house, a princess and frog sitting across from each other, Hansel and Gretel leaving breadcrumbs.
Junior Jake Mahoney introduced the citywide “Artful Piano” project to bring the community together. The project features donated and repainted pianos by local artists in popular spots around Newton for the public to play. The pianos debuted at the first annual Festival of the Arts last May, and public concerts were held at them throughout the year.  
The city wide project is a collaboration between Lasell College, local art programs like the ones at the New Art Center, Newton South, the YCCA, and people who donate pianos.
After seeing a YouTube video of Owl City playing a concert on a “street piano,’’ Mahoney searched it up and found “Play Me I’m Yours.” The international project props pianos in public areas in large cities all over the world, bearing the simple instruction “Play Me I’m Yours.” Mahoney later told his grandmother, Linda Plaut, the Director of the Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs, about the “Play Me I’m Yours” project, which is now replicated in Newton as the “Artful Piano.”
Mahoney said the projects have the “same intention: invite creativity, invite music-oriented people, and hopefully bring people together.”
Maria Arvelo is leading the citywide project and organized the placement of nine pianos all over Newton, one of which is in the theatre entrance.
Carpentry and Art Major three and four students collaborated on the project at North. Carpentry students created a bar on the piano legs to attach a chain between the bench and the piano legs. Art teacher Shannon Slattery, whose students have been working on this project, decided a chain was needed so the bench would not end up all over the school.
Due this May for the Festival of the Arts, the students have been working on a second ocean themed piano since the fall. The paint for the pianos at North was funded by the PTSO for about $350. The piano’s progress can be viewed outside the Center for Civic Engagement.
“We’ve all developed our own styles through sketchbook homework so a lot of different styles will be shown on the piano,” said junior Anna Demko, who is working on the new piano.
Slattery said, “I love that it’s out in the hallway, so people can see what’s going on inside the art classes.”