As art programs in New York City schools continue to get smaller due to budget cuts, and in some cases disappear, one nonprofit has found a colorful way to keep the music going.
For the past five years, Sing for Hope has put together the city’s largest public art project which brings 50 artist-created pianos to parks and public spaces across the five boroughs for a two-week period in June.
This year, for the first time, the nonprofit has announced that the Sing for Hope has partnered with the city’s Department of Education to have the pianos donated to city public schools following their public displays.
“It’s [disheartening] for me as a musician to know how much the music programs have been cut,” said Monica Yunus, co-founder and co-executive director of Sing for Hope. “If we can put the arts back into the schools with the pianos, that’s a great thing.”
From June 9-19, the colorful pianos will be present at the spaces for anyone to either play or view and there is also an app to locate the pianos. The instruments will officially debut on June 6 at 28 Liberty Plaza.
And although the pianos — which are designed by an array of volunteer artists, community members of all ages, and celebrities — are only out in the public for two weeks, the plan is to allow the instruments to continue to have a life influencing others.
“It’s interesting, so many kids in New York haven’t seen a piano, let alone touch one,” Yunus said. “The mission of Sing for Hope isn’t to create the next musicians, even though that would be great, but to engage in creativity.”
For Bronx artist Vanezza Cruz — who is part of the program for a second year — working as an art administrator for the DOE she has seen how many students are not given music and art opportunities.
She added that bringing the pianos to the schools also allows students to see that it is possible to have a career in the arts, regardless what others might tell them.
“There are a lot of schools that don’t have performing arts, they don’t have access to instruments,” Cruz said. “Combining the two brings so much to the school.”
Currently Sing for Hope is still accepting applications from schools that want to be a home to one of the pianos.
In order for the pianos to be in the best condition possible, following their time outdoors, the nonprofit is also looking for “piano buddies,” who are community members that would help cover the pianos during inclement weather. Anyone interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The organization is also holding an online campaign to raise money that will go toward the transportation of the pianos and making sure they are tuned before being donated to the schools.