Photo by Kelsey Shoemaker

Leigha Lugo is teaming up with the City of Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs to sprinkle painted pianos all over Dallas in hopes of uniting the community around the visual and musical.

The East Dallas neighbor applied for the office’s Special Support Grant with a project called Play On, Dallas!, which involves painting three pianos and placing them around town. Each piano is styled after a musical artist and what they were wearing during a memorable performance.

The pianos will be modeled after outfits worn by electronic indie pop duo Sylvan Esso, rapper and drummer Anderson Paak and New Orleans funk and soul band Tank and the Bangas.

To kick off the project, there will be a launch event at Main Street Garden Park downtown on Saturday, July 14 from 12-2 p.m. The pianos will be there along with musical performances from Daniel Porter, Poppy Xander and Parker Geiger.

The pianos will then be distributed around town, where they will be both art and functioning public music installations, available for anyone to play. The pianos will end up in Pegasus Park, the Dallas Farmers Market and Love-Field Airport.

For Lugo, the project represents an opportunity to bring the diverse population of Dallas together. “Music is one of the best ways to unite a community, regardless of your socio-economic background,” she says.

This isn’t Lugo’s first go-round in painting pianos. While living in Singapore and working with a school for students with special needs, she helped the students prepare for an installation around the city that included 49 painted pianos. For Lugo, getting to know a new place is easier by jumping in with both feet. “When you live different places, tune into what is going on to the community you are living in,” she says. “Use your talents for good.”

Though she was experienced in painting pianos, this project wasn’t without its challenges. She bought pianos from local sellers, but transporting, restoring and finding the right paint for them wasn’t always easy. “I now know more about pianos than I ever wanted to know,” she says.

Her hope is that the project is beautiful and entertaining, but the pianos also provide an opportunity for collaboration. “They are a vehicle for cultural exchange and free education for the community,” she says.

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