Public Art that Both Looks and Sounds Beautiful


On the way back from a short trip this past weekend, I stopped in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where there is a brilliant public art exhibit on display, Keys for the City.  The exhibit contains twenty pianos dispersed throughout the city, each ready for a pianist to sit down and start playing.  The exhibit, a joint-venture between public and private interests, has been chiefly organized by a non-profit organization, Music for Everyone.  “The pianos are intended to engage the public by inspiring people to stop and strike a few keys or play an entire piece,” said John Gerdy, president of Music For Everyone. “This project is a literal expression of what this organization is about – Music For Everyone.”

A man plays a public piano in front of Lancaster City's Library.

Each piano on display was custom designed and businesses and organizations were offered the opportunity to sponsor the pianos or allow the piano to be placed near their property.  While I was wandering through only a small area of Downtown Lancaster for a short period of time, I saw two pianos and one was being played directly in front of the City Library.  (The scene reminded me of the piano staircase in Stockholm.) 

A piano on display across from the Central Market on King Street in the heart of the Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Artwork and music joined together in public spaces is a great way to get people to interact with their environment–it can make a person linger around a place just a little while longer to hear someone’s playing or provide an opportunity  for random, joyful interactions between strangers over a mutual appreciation for a song that is being played.  What a great idea!  New York City thinks so, too.  I imagine that this type of interactive art display might be popping up in more cities in the near future, perhaps in the Washington-region.


2 responses to “Public Art that Both Looks and Sounds Beautiful

  1. Wow, fascinating idea!

    How do they protect the pianos (and the artwork on them) from the elements?

    • Hi Nicole,

      Thanks for reading! I agree that it’s an awesome idea. They have volunteers (individuals and businesses) that have agreed to act as stewards for each piano. These people take care to cover it during rain (bring it inside or put a tarp on it, etc.). But I think that your question is a good one and it would be difficult to protect the pianos from the elements (e.g. humidity) or accidents (e.g. spilled beverages) long term. This stewardship is another reason why the idea is great, since it encourages people to take on the task of programming in public spaces.


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