PLAYIN' AROUND SOUTH ORANGE Kicks Off 8/26Playin' Around South Orange, supported in part by Valley National Bank, kicks off for the fifth year on Sat., August 26 at noon, bringing live music and art in the form of hand-painted pianos and outdoor performances to five separate South Orange locations. The SOPAC-presented project runs from Aug. 26 - Oct.1. Other community supporters of the effort include the Village of South Orange, South Orange Village Center Alliance and Seton Hall University.

Kick-off festivities will include live performances by professional musicians at each of the four downtown piano locations from noon-1 p.m. on Sat., Aug.26. Many of the artists will also be in attendance at their respective pianos to meet the public and answer any questions about their design. With simultaneous mini-concerts happening all over town, the day will be music and art-inspired. The colorful and eye-catching pianos will be found at Spiotta Park, Irvington and W. Fairview Avenues, the Village Service Center on South Orange Avenue and the Sloan Street Gazebo. Details are listed on the SOPAC website, as well. Programmed by the South Orange Village Center Alliance, Wednesday night Jam sessions at the Sloan Street Gazebo will make the area around the South Orange Transit Station come alive with music weekly from 5-7 p.m. Aug.30-Sept.27.

Each year, local artists complete a Playin' Around South Orange application for the honor of transforming an old piano into a contemporary piece of art. On average each artist donates up to 30+ hours per piano to bring this musical event to life. Paint and supplies are supplied by the artists or are donated by local businesses.

2017 artists include Bill Billec ("South Orange Submarine" at Spiotta Park), Elizabeth, Alexa and Allie Sibio ("Peacock" Baby Grand at Village Service Center on South Orange Avenue), Irene Pomianowski & Gwendolyn 'Arri' Jackson ("Eye-Full Piano" at Sloan Street Gazebo), and Sandy Koturba assisted by JESPY House clients ("Zentangle" at Irvington & West Fairview Avenues).

Lawrence Ciarallo painted the piano located at the Bishop Dougherty University Center on the Seton Hall University campus.

Pianos are donated by various individuals from throughout the community. Director of SOPAC Community Engagement, Linda Beard, keeps her eyes and ears open for possible donations all year long, sometimes asking people to "hold on to" their instruments for several months for lack of storage space until the summer comes around again. Her goal for the program is "to interrupt the day-to-day routine and allow people the opportunity to interact with different genres of art in a unique way." She says with obvious enthusiasm, "It's about bringing what we do inside the [SOPAC] building outside to the community." Beard added," We are extremely grateful to Valley National Bank for their support of this popular public art project. The community loves the pianos and Valley National Bank is known for their commitment to community."

Weather is an obvious challenge for the instruments. SOPAC staff try to watch the forecast while the pianos are out, but occasionally a compassionate citizen will take notice of an impending storm and spontaneously pull a SOPAC-supplied blue tarp over the artwork, preserving it for a few more improvisational concerts. "That's exactly the kind of behavior we are looking to ignite," notes Beard. "We want the community to take ownership of this experience and realize that these instruments are not 'ours;' they belong to South Orange."

More information on the pianos is available on the SOPAC website at

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