Lee Eckroth couldn’t hold back a smile as piano music filled the air Wednesday afternoon on the streets of downtown Corvallis.
The moment marked the culmination of months of work from by Eckroth, Corvallis Imagination Music & Art founder David Lundahl and dozens of volunteers who’d banded together to create the first Play Corvallis, Play.
The art installation features eight theme-decorated pianos, placed at outdoor locations around Corvallis. It is open to the public from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Aug. 16 as a prelude event to the Imagination Music and Art festival at Bruce Starker Arts Park on Aug. 15 and 16.
Play Corvallis, Play is intended to inspire appreciation of the arts, and it is just what it sounds like: an invitation to residents to stop and play the piano to showcase local musical creativity and art as a way of drawing attention to the fundraising at Corvallis public schools, CIMA officials said. (Information about CIMA’s Kickstarter program to help with that effort is available at http://kck.st/1uoOn3F.)
“Just as we hear the birds singing in the trees and it makes us smile, music in the streets will leave us in a good place,”
Eckroth said. “Bringing music to the streets and bringing the art is going to give us two weeks of smiles in the community.”
While many art installations feature hired entertainment with little public interaction, the key difference of Play Corvallis, Play comes from the musical talents of the community, Eckroth said.
“This is a really creative town ... from patents to engineering to music and art. This is an art installation, but it’s the community that makes it come alive,” he said. “We wanted people to see this, and for the pianos to be in places where there would be great traffic.”
Within seconds of fingers touching the piano keys of a flame-decorated piano Wednesday afternoon outside of American Dream Pizza, dozens of pedestrians passing by smiled as 18-year-old Nicholas Puglese serenaded the crowd.
“I think it’s a neat social experiment to see if people will notice or stop for a couple of minutes and enjoy,” Puglese said during a break from playing. “I love playing music for people.”
Puglese said his music is a hobby, and it also is something he values in a community.
“Music transcends words. No matter what language you speak, everyone can enjoy a good tune,” he said. “Everyone can sing along to the tune in their own language. It brings people together over a barrier of language.”
That is exactly the goal Eckroth, his family and Lundahl had when they decided to include the art installation in the run-up to the second annual CIMA Festival on Aug. 15 and 16.
“Music touches people more than anything else,” Lundahl said. “If you think about the idea of creativity, it goes way beyond playing an instrument and it can transcend everything in life. I think we get so tied up in academics and applying that in life, we don’t really think of the importance of creativity and music and what that can inspire in life.”