Arts & Culture South Orange

Playin’ Around South Orange Returns August 25

From the South Orange Performing Arts Center:

Alexa and Allie Sibio (“Peacock” Baby Grand at Village Service Center on South Orange Avenue), Photo by Gregory Burrus

Playin’ Around South Orange kicks off for the sixth year on Sat., August 25 at noon, bringing live music and art in the form of hand-painted pianos and outdoor performances to five separate South Orange locations. Making their debut on the streets of South Orange are five thematically painted pianos that are available 24/7 for musicians, both young and old, to enjoy and play at any time. The SOPAC-presented project, sponsored by Patti Donovan, runs from Aug. 25 – Oct.7, 2018.  Other community supporters of the project include the Village of South Orange, South Orange Village Center Alliance and Seton Hall University.

Kick-off festivities include live performances by professional musicians at each of the four downtown piano locations Saturday, August 25, noon-1 p.m. Several of the visual artists will also be in attendance at their pianos. With simultaneous mini-concerts happening all over town, the day will be music and art-inspired. The colorful and eye-catching pianos can 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 at 

Wednesday night Jam sessions, August 29-October 3, 5-7 p.m at the Sloan Street Gazebo, will make the area around the South Orange Transit Station come alive with music. The South Orange Village Center Alliance has programmed some great groups for the Wednesday Jams. Directly across from the Sloan Street Gazebo is the South Orange Farmers Market, known for the freshest of produce and specialty foods. It will be open 5-7 p.m. as well, and people will be serenaded by some of the best local bands while shopping. 

Each year, local artists apply for the honor of transforming a piano into a contemporary piece of art. On average each artist donates up to 30+ hours per piano to bring this musical event to colorful life. Paint and supplies are supplied by the artists or are donated by local businesses.

2018 visual artists include:

Arts Council of East Orange members Gwerndolyn “Arri” Jackson and Irene Pomianowski leading a dedicated team composed of Jae Bianca Jackson, Jeffrey “Sizzy” Osbourne, Helena L. Branch and Marsha Wilkerson; Returning Playin’ Around South Orange artist Bill Billec; Elena Rosenblum and Veronika Hapco; Jessica Skultetya; and Kirk Maynard.

The musicians who will play these exciting works of art on August 25 are: Theo Walentiny; Campbell Charshee of Mark Murphy Music; Mark Madonna; and Patricia Brady-Danzig.

Pianos are donated by various individuals from throughout the community. Director of SOPAC Community Engagement, Linda Beard, seeks possible donations all year long, often asking people to store their instruments for several months until the summer program begins. SOPAC is unable to store pianos due to space limitations.

Her goal for the program is “to interrupt your day-to-day routine and encourage people to interact with different genres of art in a unique way.” Spontaneous sing-a-longs can happen at any time! She says with obvious enthusiasm, “We love bringing the art outside for everyone to enjoy. Five minutes spent listening to music on the streets is a guaranteed stress-buster.”

Weather is an obvious challenge for the instruments. SOPAC staff watch the forecast while the pianos are out, but often 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 encourage,” 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.” 

Playin’ Around South Orange is sponsored by Patti Donovan.

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

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