Megan McGeorge is flanked by half a dozen upright pianos, every adorned with colourful, typically wild, decorations. As we speak, she’s determined to play one with a large, snarling tiger painted on the entrance.
“The bench [has] tiger stripes,” says McGeorge as she reveals off the instrument. “And on the again there are additionally tiger stripes. And if we open up the highest, which we’ll in a second, there’s just a little mind — just a little tiger mind. The artists really go above and past.”
These lovely works are all a part of Piano. Push. Play. It’s an annual interactive artwork set up based and directed by McGeorge.
“And they’re on the streets of Portland,” she says. “They’re in your public parks. They’re in courtyards amongst town. And they’re for anyone to play and luxuriate in.”
Her group has humble roots. A bit of over a decade in the past, McGeorge was strolling down NW Burnside Avenue in Portland when she and a bunch of pals encountered a cello participant busking on the sidewalk.
“All of us stopped in our tracks and we stood there and had this second that actually appeared transcendent,” recollects McGeorge. “It was so lovely. And I keep in mind saying to my pals on the time, “I want I might try this.”
McGeorge is a educated musician, however her instrument of selection is the piano. Its measurement and weight make an impromptu sidewalk efficiency seemingly not possible. However undeterred, she pursued the thought and reached out to the close by Portland Piano Firm to see if they’d mortgage her a piano to play on the sidewalk in downtown Portland. To her shock, they agreed.
The corporate even threw in a rickety dolly to assist transfer the instrument round.
“Me and a few pals, each Thursday for that summer time, we’d go to Portland Piano Co. at 3 o’clock and would seize this piano and push it up the road,” says McGeorge. “Then we’d simply park it and we’d take turns enjoying for folks.”
McGeorge’s good friend, the musician and artist referred to as Jane, labored on the close by Ace Lodge and was a part of that early crew of volunteers.
“We actually pushed the piano from that retailer to the nook the place American Attire was once,” he says. “That’s the way it began. She simply wanted some assist transferring furnishings, and I helped to push the piano, therefore the title.”
Piano. Push. Play.
The next yr, McGeorge settled on the mission’s present kind the place painted pianos are put in at numerous places across the metropolis for public use. Artists like Jane are given virtually unfettered artistic license of their design. He accomplished his first piano in 2020.
“I ended up getting caught on this phrase: ‘Black Is Love.’ I wished to place it on a pristine background as an alternative of one thing black, so we went with a totally white piano,” he recollects. “To type of symbolize the expansion and sweetness that comes out [of the piano and phrase], we traced dahlias and beautiful flowers on the facet in metallic paints. It was type of a whirlwind to get it completed in time, however a hell of loads of enjoyable for certain.”
However there may be one rule. Every piano should be emblazoned with the phrase: “Please play me.”
It would appear to be a minor element however for Kyle O’Quin, who performs keyboards for the Grammy-Award-winning band Portugal. The Man., these three phrases are what make Piano. Push. Play. distinctive.
“Many of the pianos you see—and I can inform you from private expertise—in resorts and issues all have indicators that say: ‘Please don’t play this piano. Underneath any circumstances don’t play this piano.’ It’s not for you. We don’t need you to play it. They’re very uninviting,” says O’Quin.
O’Quin and his bandmates, who’re all longtime supporters of the mission, admire its aim of decreasing boundaries to artwork.
“Lots of people don’t have entry to a piano, sadly. It makes it extra accessible and fewer pretentious,” he says.
And that’s necessary as a result of O’Quin makes a powerful argument that the piano is probably the most democratic of devices.
“It’s timeless. You’ll be able to play something on it,” he says earlier than rattling off an inventory of songs starting from Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” to compositions by Chopin and Scott Joplin.
“You’ve obtained 88 notes, a few pedals, and your creativeness,” says O’Quin. “That’s one of many issues I like concerning the piano. It actually spans all of time.”
O’Quin’s enthusiasm for Piano. Push. Play. isn’t remoted. Prior to now decade, the mission has grown in scope and measurement. It solid partnerships with organizations like Portland Artwork Museum and Portland Parks and Recreation. The group has additionally obtained funding from distinguished musicians like jazz artist Esperanza Spalding.
Whereas Piano. Push. Play founder Megan McGeorge is not shoving a piano up Burnside Avenue every Thursday afternoon, her mission stays the identical.
“This can be a community-making machine,” says McGeorge.
“Folks must keep in mind that the issues inside them — their music, their artwork — these are particular issues that you need to share.”
Piano. Push. Play. hosts a kick-off live performance on July 1 at Pioneer Courthouse Sq. in downtown Portland. The places of this yr’s batch of pianos will likely be introduced on the occasion.