SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – As the summer nears a close, music filled the air in downtown South Orange on Saturday. Recently, throughout he village, there have been four artfully decorated pianos on display, courtesy of the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC).
At noon, they were unveiled as a public art and performance happening and all residents are invited to step up and play the instruments, which will be there through October. SOPAC, along with other community organizations began planning this in April and found old pianos and local artists to paint them. The artists are: Russell Christian, Dan Fenelon, Mikel Frank, Marie Glynn, Susan Harris and students of Greek Life at Seton Hall University.
The pianos are located at Sloan Street Gazebo (Sloan and 1st Streets), Irvington Avenue (and West Fairview Avenue), Spiotta Park (South Orange Ave & Village Plaza), Meadowland Park – Duck Pond (North Ridgewood Ave and Mead Street) and Seton Hall University (University Green).
Scott Sullivan, director of marketing and communications at SOPAC said they created the project to spread the love of music and art in the community.
“This is kind of giving the piano a second life,” he said. “Having them painted by a local artist really provides an uniqueness to them.”
Sullivan said throughout the afternoon, some people stopped by because they knew of the event, while other residents heard the music and took a break from shopping to listen. It’s really going to be a wonderful thing for the entire community, he said.
Theo Walentiny, 17, of Maplewood jammed out on the pianos at the two parks and at the Sloan Street Gazebo playing jazz and even some Kanye West. He has been involved with music since the age of 6 and also plays trumpet, bass and guitar and plans to study music at a conservatory. Having renovated pianos throughout South Orange is a very cool thing, Walentiny said.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a unique way to experience music that’s hiding in the town.”
Artist Russell Christian, who painted the piano at Spiotta Park, said he jumped at the opportunity to be involved with this project. He painted a saloon piano, so he created several dancing figures and expressive movement on it.
“I like how it came out,” he said. “I’m very happy with it.”