Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Play Me I'm Yours: An Evening With Artists and Organizers At the Close of the Street Piano Exhibit

A few weeks ago I posted about my interest in conducting a full scale research project centered around the public art installation Play Me I'm Yours for the 2015 PanAm Games.

Since then I've traveled around the city, searching for pianos, meeting fascinating people and learning a lot about artists from around Toronto and all over North America.  In parks and on street corners, inside and outside of public buildings and placed under the most important monuments the city can claim, these pianos have won the hearts of Torontonians.  Today, July 31st is the last day of the public exhibition, and as a result of this blog, The Umbrella, and the connection it helped me make with artist Karen Miranda Augustine, I was invited to attend the closing reception of the Play Me I'm Yours Exhibit. 

I knew I was extremely fortunate to find myself in such a position, and I thus decided to take advantage of it.  I walked about the room with my phone and held a few short interviews with many of the artists. I was intrigued to hear their stories about how it all got started, what their experiences had been thus far and what they felt the overall reception was of the project.  To my delight, they were equally as happy to meet me and were more than willing to discuss their art, their lives and their overall contribution to the Play Me I'm Yours project.  

There was wine and there were hors d'oeuvres and the artists reminisced about the period of time they spent working on the pianos in the workshop together, their anxiety prior to going in and the lasting friendships they made as a result.  

Another wonderful connection I made was with the admirers of the project, the ones who are never thanked enough for their time - the volunteer "piano buddies."  I spoke to a few people of this designation tonight, and they had some interesting stories of their own from a unique perspective.  For example, one woman told me about her running out before the storms to quickly cover the pianos, or another man who told me about his confrontations with shady individuals who may or may not have been trying to deface the instruments.  

But the main, overriding trend of the evening was no doubt the absolute love ad admiration everyone there felt for the project, and for what its done for this city.  In his address to the group that this was the most successful manifestation of the street piano project - a world wide exhibit which has traveled through some major cities like Los Angeles and New York.  And what have the people of Toronto had to say about it?  The most common response I've had from the countless people I've encountered playing and enjoying the pianos is that they'll be sad to see them go.  

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for my individual posts on the artists involved in Play Me I'm Yours and their pianos.  

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Play Me I'm Yours: Trinidad and Tobago at Yonge and Eg

Okay so I am aware that the map I chose for this collection of posts is not the most sufficient in terms of geography.  There is nothing north of Bloor until the 401 (and though this is the reality of the lives of some Torontonians..........) it leaves out some pretty important streets in my opinion.  One of course, is Eglinton Avenue.

This piano, representing Trinidad and Tobago, was created by Trinidad born artist Brian Wong Won.  

The artist is: "known for his bright colors, expressionistic compressions of space and distortions of architectural space." 

This quote from his website, describing his style is plainly seen and represented in the many examples of his work that I've seen as well as on this beautiful piano.  This one was one of my top favorites simply because it was painted with such crisp, clear colours, featuring  a branch of cherry blossoms across the top.  I loved this specifically because it is both representative of Trinidad and Tobago, home of the beautiful, rich colours he depicts, but also a connection with Toronto, which itself has many beautiful parks and hidden bluffs for flowers to grow.  Who hasn't seen the cherry blossoms at High Park in the Spring?  

If you're interested in the work of Brian Wong Won, he's currently showing at BAND Art Gallery in Toronto at 823-A Bloor Street West.  The showing of his works including a reception which took place July 25th is in conjunction with the upcoming ScotiaBank Carribean Carnival.
I seriously recommend getting out and seeing these pianos!  The exhibit is so close to being finished, (2 days!) so get out to the parks and street corners around Toronto and play!!   

Thanks for reading and keep reading for the rest of my piano posts after the end of the exhibition and full coverage of the Closing Reception with guide/ artist Karen Miranda Augustine on Monday, July 31st!

Until then, go LIKE TorontoArtist on Facebook!!!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Play Me I'm Yours - Las Abejas de Costa Rica - Bees at the TIFF Lightbox

The funny thing I've noticed about the artists chosen for the Toronto Street Piano Project is that they are from a very wide range a backgrounds and have experienced a varied level of success as artists prior to participating in the project.  Some of the artists I wasn't able to find any information on at all - and it's sad when you can stump Google.  But some of the artists,. such as Francisco Castro Lostalo of Puntarenas, Costa Rica - creator of the piano at the TIFF Lightbox.

The piano, covered in bees and honey comb patterns represents the necessity of bees in Costa Rica to the continuing development and growth of their agricultural society. 

 "My goal for this event was to create a work of art that would be inviting to look at and fun to play, but my piano also has a serious message." 

He explains his full meaning further on his website http://castrolostalo.com.  He also explains it quite well on a small plaque he included 

Costa Rica is one of the 41 countries participating in the 2015 PanAm Games here in Toronto, and I work right next door, so I get to see it every day. :)

Until the next!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Play Me I'm Yours: Pajaro Tropical - Dominica Piano

One of my favorite things about this Toronto Street Piano Project - the city wide art projects featuring fourty-one originally re-imagined pianos, each representing one of the nations participating in the 2015 PanAm Games - is the hunt itself.  I'm really enjoying the treasure hunt aspect of this project for me and the discovering of many small little parks and areas of the city that I, a non-Torontonian until recently would never have otherwise known about.  

In this case I'm referring to the Yorkville Cumberland Terrace.  We walked up and I swear there was a little Italian guy there playing the theme from the Godfather on violin.  Surreal situation.  This place is steps outside the exit of Bay Station, a Station scarcely used by anyone who doesn't live or work within a four block radius.  

Then there are patios and little shops (selling very expensive items,) all surrounding this little pavillion-type area including a large water feature which creates a constant vertical flow of several dozens of streams of water.  It was a beautiful place to put a street piano.  

I also was fortunate enough to come across some real information about the artist responsible for such a piece.  Her name is Karen Miranda Augustine, and she's a ritualistic pop artist from Toronto with roots in the Commonwealth of Dominica.  Turns out she is a fascinating woman with a very unique style and approach and we'll be looking out for her work in the future of Toronto art for sure.  

The piano is representative of Dominica's participation in the 2015 PanAm games taking place right here in Toronto, Ontario.  

Until the next!

Play Me I'm Yours : La Mariposa for Mexico

The first piano I visited in the downtown core was the piano for Mexico in front of the CIBC building at the corner of Dundas and University.  The base colour is a rich sky blue with brightly coloured flowers across the front and down the sides.  The colours are bright and tropical, just like the beautiful country the instrument represents.  
     The artists, Alex Flores was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico and she was selected for the piece because of her connection to the nation which will be represented in the 2015 Pan Am games.  A little research on the interweb showed that the inspiration for the piano was none other than butterflies, that which migrate from Canada to Mexico and back every year.
Alex Flores has a huge resume.  She's been an active artist in and out of Toronto since the early 90s and has been involved in many public art exhibitions and movements.  If you're interested in learning more about ehr you can check out her website at  http://alexarte.com

A beautiful concept and a beautiful piano. Onto the next one!

Play Me I'm Yours: El Piano Varado - Piano for El Salvador

One of the most impressive pianos I've seen thus far in terms of style and execution is that of Cristina Cornejo. Located in the McGill Parkette on Yonge Street, we also had one of our most entertaining experiences with a piano yet.  

It was about 1030pm and we'd just left a bar around the corner and were walking down Yonge Street to the subway.  We passed a small parkette along the way and I noticed that there was in fact a piano there, vacant, waiting to be photographed.  

As I set out to capture the piece and the details of its thick oil paint exterior, an old couple were walking our way, and the man appeared to be blind.  
"Just show me where the keys are," he said aloud to his wife as he handed her his cane and she directed him to the stool in front of the piano.  

Check it out here: 

It was pretty impressive.  

Ossington Avenue Gallery Strip Project – A Look at the Most Populated Area for Art Galleries in Toronto

Last week, an old friend of mine was in town for the night and we decided to have a meal and walk about an area that neither of us knew very well, a little stretch of road between Queen street and Dundas at Ossington Avenue.  

What I was delighted to find I had encountered, was an area full of the most unique and fantastic little art galleries you ever did see. Toss in the Lower Ossington Theatre and the lovely Ideal Coffee shop up at Foxley St makes this the perfect place to spend and afternoon.  

Check out my thoughts on the individual galleries as I visit them every week with my friends in a project I'm calling the Ossington Avenue Gallery Strip Project. I have a feeling my mind is about to be blown.  

Play Me I'm Yours : Toronto Street Piano Project

When I first heard about this “Play Me I'm Yours” Exhibit in Toronto I thought it was a beautiful idea. I had no idea at the time that it would be so city-wide and such a widely accepted success in the city of Toronto this summer. What better way to get residents ready and excited for the 2015 PanAm Games than to introduce an exhibit that promoted inclusivity, multiculturalism and unity through art and music. Torontonians are eating it up, 
Over the next couple weeks I'm gonna try my ass off to visit them all.  

Music bringing people together on the streets of Toronto.  Yes please.