What are these random decorated pianos doing in your neighbourhood?
Play me, I'm yours
On a pedestrian-heavy pathway under a block of flats in Toa Payoh Central, a lone piano sits unassumingly in a corner near a street vendor at Block 183. Blink and you'll (probably) miss it — as the rush hour crowd makes their way home and the elderly and stay-at-home mothers go about their errands, the pastel pink, green and blue hues of the piano sit idly by.
And yet few have paused to reflect on its presence. Placed on the site since 14 March, the piano is one of 25 decorated pieces placed around our island. An artwork made from a collaboration with young local artist Marina A and the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, the piano is part of the 'Play Me, I'm Yours' project, a cause started by British artist Luke Jerram back in 2008. More than 1,500 pianos have since toured in 50 cities across the globe including Hong Kong and China, with Singapore being its first Southeast Asian outpost.
The local initiative is the brainchild of three directors from The Playtent — Jean Low, Claire Devine and Rebecca Lee — and the Singapore International Foundation. Low's father got the idea after noticing a random piano in the streets of Prague, where he proceeded to do a cover of John Legend's All of Me (he, like Low, is passionate about music). After delving into the idea, they found out about the Brit's project and proceeded to contact him about the possibility of doing the same here.
After an open call for donations and artists in December, the team spent three weeks doing a recce of potential places. Making sure that there's a good balance between art spaces, parks, neighbourhoods and quieter communities, Low emphasises the importance of providing the pianos to people who may not otherwise have access to one. Each artist and organisation took an average of one to two weeks to complete their project, with some taking about two months. After their stint, the pianos will be returned to the organisations for them to auction off in a fund-raiser.
"It's really about making the arts for everyone," adds the 30-year-old, who's a graphic designer by training. "In Singapore, the arts can be a bit intimidating. You feel like you have to be privileged and educated. A lot of people think they're not creative — actually everyone's creative, it just manifests in a different way."
After tinkering about the piano in Toa Payoh Central for a minute, Low gives way to a passer-by — an elderly resident — to try her hand at the artwork. Amid the cries of street vendors, quizzical looks from residents leaning on the pee-stained walls, artistry comes alive from the fingers of an unlikely musician.