Joining the ivory league
With its colorful paint job and location outside the university center, the piano is hard to ignore. And that’s exactly the point.
Whether you have actually played a few notes or just spread the word there’s a musical instrument outside, you have participated in the Playin’ Around South Orange project. The program, which was organized by the South Orange Performing Arts Center, placed pianos in visible areas throughout South Orange. Seton Hall is one of six locations that also include Spiotta Park, Meadowlands Park, the Sloan Street gazebo, SOPAC and the intersection of Irvington and West Fairview avenues.
According to Scott Sullivan, SOPAC’s director of marketing and communications, the project was inspired by similar events in other U.S. cities. He said its goal is to allow people to interact artistically with their hometown.
“We wanted to come up with a public art project that will engage people in the artistic process through innovative ways and also transform how people relate to the environment in South Orange,” Sullivan said. “Everybody can appreciate these pianos.”
But they aren’t just pianos – they’re works of art. Each one was painted by a local artist. As the numerous Greek letters covering its surface indicate, Seton Hall’s piano was done by the students of Greek Life. Sullivan said painting the pianos added a whole other dimension to the project.
“It adds a little more of a visual, interesting element to it,” he said. “We have such a large array of great artists who are local. It made sense for us to work with them and engage them in this project.”
For Arts Council Chairman Dr. Nathan Oates, partnering with SOPAC for the program was an easy decision. Oates said Playin’ Around South Orange meets Seton Hall’s commitments to promoting the arts and connecting with the South Orange community. He said it benefits students as well.
“Exposure to the arts is, I believe, always beneficial, and the piano on campus is a constant reminder of the arts on campus,” Oates said. “(It’s) also a chance for spontaneous play, a reminder that the arts are a living process, available to everyone.”
The piano seems to be a welcome addition to the campus for students. Sophomore Cecelia Mosco believes it could be therapeutic for the harried on their way to class.
“I could see it as a cool way to relieve stress between classes or just hang out and play and get people to listen,” she said. “Music is definitely a plus.”
Sophomore Rohit Ravi even suggested including other instruments outside with the piano, such as a guitar.
Sullivan said the project was envisioned as a one-time only event, but it’s possible it could return in future years. He said the program will conclude on Oct. 6 after Seton Hall Weekend. But sophomore Steven Varsanyi would prefer it if the piano became a permanent fixture.
“Hopefully they keep it up for a long time because it definitely is something nice to hear when walking around,” he said.
Sean Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.