Create your one-of-a-kind ‘Fredonia Street Piano’

Tuesday January 28, 2020Roger Coda
Sing for Hope Piano by artist Jordy Lievers-Eaton placed at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem.
Sing for Hope Piano by artist Jordy Lievers-Eaton placed at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem.

If you’re a visual artist seeking a unique challenge, the Fredonia Street Piano Project wants to hear from you.

Fredonia Street Piano Project, whose goal is to place artist-designed pianos in outdoor public spaces on the Fredonia campus and in the village of Fredonia and city of Dunkirk for anyone to play, is currently accepting proposals from visual artists to create one-of-a-kind piano artwork.

Street piano projects can be traced to “Play Me, I’m Yours,” an art display comprised of 15 pianos in Birmingham, England, in 2008. It was a rousing success, with an estimated 14,000 people playing or listening to music from the pianos. Since then, street pianos have dotted urban landscapes of 65 cities, and they’ll debut this spring in this far corner of Western New York.

Marc Levy, facilities manager in Mason Hall in the School of Music, was intrigued by a decorated street piano he saw in Montreal two years ago. “Someone was actually playing on it; that’s where the inspiration came from, that we could do that at Fredonia and the surrounding area,” Levy said. Street pianos are also huge in New York City, he added.

Many communities have identifiable artwork, such as painted buffalos along the New York State Thruway near Buffalo and painted horses in Rochester, N.Y., Levy explained. With the renowned School of Music at Fredonia, it certainly wasn’t a great leap to bring street pianos here.

“The main thing about (the) pianos is that they become live art, where these pianos will actually be playable. We’ll encourage members of the community to play these pianos,” Levy explained. “For me, it’s the creativity of the artist, bringing the piano to life. I want them to bring their own inspiration to the piano. Designs and artwork will be different for every single instrument.”

Fredonia Street Piano Project will furnish upright pianos, as well as acrylic paints in a variety of colors, primer, drop cloths, sanding blocks, painters tape and a limited supply of basic brushes, all for communal use. Artwork on the pianos will be completed in a campus studio or gallery.

painted street piano
Sing for Hope Piano by artist Nick Stavrides placed at Hunters Point South in Queens.

These pianos, Levy explained, no longer meet the needs for piano and music majors in the School of Music and are being replaced with new upright pianos.

Applications from visual artists will be evaluated by an independent panel of adjudicators, using quality, creativity, diversity, practicality and accessibility of the work as criteria. A rendering of the proposed artwork is to be included in the application. There is no entry fee.

The goal is to have up to four upright pianos on display from approximately May 1 through Oct. 15. Graham Howes, head piano technician in the School of Music, will tune and prepare the pianos to weather the elements. Members of the street piano project include Michele Bernatz, Peter Tucker and Czerton Lim (Department of Visual Arts and New Media), Sam Kenney (Department of Theatre and Dance), and Mr. Howes and Levy (School of Music).

Fredonia Street Piano Project is sponsored by Big L Windows & Doors, with support from the village of Fredonia, city of Dunkirk and Fredonia’s School of Music and departments of Visual Arts and New Media, and Theatre and Dance.

Students, faculty and staff of Fredonia and community members are invited to submit an application. The deadline is Feb. 14.

For more information and an application, visit online at:

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