Pop-up art installation Street Pianos returns to Boston this month. Sponsored by the Celebrity Series of Boston, the citywide exhibit is the touring art of Britain’s Luke Jerram’s “Play Me, I’m Yours” installation, which has set up in several cities since 2008. It first appeared in Boston in 2013.
This time, the display includes 60 pianos positioned in every Boston neighborhood, and also some Cambridge locations. Each is decorated by an artist and has the invitation, “Play Me, I’m Yours” painted on it. And people do just that: They sit and play, and continue the artistic arc that starts with a musical instrument that’s become a piece of visual art. That act then inspires continued creativity.
At least it did with South Boston-based artist and musician Walter Sickert. Having also been part of the 2013 installation, he’s finished his second Street Piano, whose design depicts the Boston skyline tossed on a stormy sea of humanity. He created it with his partner, Edrie; both play in the theatrical rock band Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys.
Around the time of the 2013 Street Pianos installation, the two were walking around their neighborhood one morning and began playing the instrument located on Castle Island.
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“We were by the ocean at night and there were rats running around by our feet: It was awesome,” Sickert says of the Pied Piperish experience. One new song, “Odd Stories,” which is on the band’s September-released album, “Come Black Magic,” was inspired by that experience. “The idea for the music came from that. When you create art in certain circumstances you enjoy it at the time, but I carry the experience with me and it can become a part of something else, too.”
“Our 2013 piano was in Kendall Square,” adds Edrie. “It was such an acoustically beautiful location. The old brick buildings and walls created such amazing reverb. We did a couple of recordings there, and some other people we know also recorded themselves playing there.”
“We had so many people come and video themselves playing that piano or interacting with it and upload it to our website and share their experience,” adds Sickert “It’s more fun for people to be a part of the artistic experience.”
In order to facilitate that, this year the couple added a trough under the piano bench, loaded with toy instruments. Isn’t he scared people will break them or steal them? “Most people are respectful. But once the piano is out in the wild — that’s how we think of it: a herd of pianos out in the wild — that’s a risk.”
Street Pianos is on display from Sept. 23 – Oct. 10. For locations and info: streetpianosboston.org.