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Pianos Popping for Philanthropy 

The Women's Fund of Central Indiana, with the help of dedicated young volunteers, is bringing new art and music to the streets of Indianapolis. Their public art project, GO Ahead & Play, has taken 20 previously unwanted pianos and turned them into uniquely decorated art fixtures around the city through the work of local artists and student volunteers. If you have been walking around downtown or Carmel the last few days, you probably saw or heard them.

GO Ahead & Play was inspired by Sing for Hope, an organization co-founded by Monica YunusAbigail Coleman, Development Officer of the Women's Fund, says the project is designed to engage young students in a philanthropic process and use their talents and leadership to art and music to central Indiana. The Women's Fund hopes these pianos bring music to people who would typically not be exposed to the arts.

Students from grades 6-12, members of the Women's Fund's GO program, led this endeavor. "We want people to play these pianos because so many people don't have art education at their school," says Ellie Becker, 12. "We want everyone to have access to art and music." A three-year GO student of the Women's Fund, Becker says she enjoys working with the Women's Fund because she likes helping people. "We want people to know we are here to help. We want to help everybody," she says.

click to enlarge The GO students led the GO Ahead and Play project.
  • The GO students led the GO Ahead and Play project.

An affiliate of Central Indiana Community Foundation, Women's Fund is a non-profit organization working with women and girls to help with quality affordable childcare, preventing and addressing domestic abuse and sexual assault, and preparing for joining and staying in the workforce, including business ownership.

Coleman is excited for how GO Ahead & Play furthers the Women's Fund mission. "Though we are not typically an arts-focused organization, Women's Fund has an ongoing interest in cultivating the whole health of women and girls; access to arts and music through this project is one unique way we are supporting this mission focus."

The mixing of art and the Women's Fund's mission to help women and girls attracted the attention of more than a few people, including local artist Angie Brooks.  "It's for women and children and it teachers philanthropy to children. I'm a single mom and anything that helps women and children speaks to my heart," says Brooks.

Brooks volunteered to decorate one of the pianos and she chose to paint her piano with a musical theme, titling it "Colorful Melody." She chose the song "Imagine" by John Lennon to help fuse music and art into one.  Using bright colors, Brooks brought the piano to life and wrote out a verse of the song on the very front of the piano.

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

"These lyrics just resonate with the entire story of this project - all the people living in peace. We're all in this together," Brooks says. "It's the collaboration of all the artists that's really cool, even though painting each piano is individualistic. We're all doing this for the same cause."

click to enlarge Colorful Melody by Angie Brooks - LISA BONCOSKY
  • Lisa Boncosky
  • Colorful Melody by Angie Brooks

Typically a canvas painter, Brooks says she approached the piano with a similar style. "I am giving my piano the same attention to detail I would give my fine art. I didn't cut corners. I used the different angles and surfaces to give depth to the art."

Most of the pianos were painted by local artists, but the student volunteers saved two for themselves. Becker, for one, enjoyed being involved in the artistry as well as the planning. Responsible for two designs, the students decorated one entirely of duct tape and the other piano is a "search and find" piece. "We treated it like a scavenger hunt," says Becker. "We found items around our houses and attached them to the piano. We choose this idea because we wanted something easily coordinated and collaborated." The 'search and find' piano was actually decorated by students in first through fifth grade, but older students like Becker helped coordinate the project. They finished the piano by coating it with a single color of paint.

The soon-to-be seventh grader says she hopes people will play the pianos and learn more about the Women's Fund and the good work the organization does for the community. "When I see the pianos out and see someone playing them, I know we'll have reached our goal," Becker says. "This is exactly what we wanted to see happen."

The pianos are now set out across Carmel and Indianapolis and will be out until August 18th. The Women's Fund has created a map and GO Ahead & Play encourages everyone to come out and play with the pianos. All pianos are fully playable and open to the public.  Go make some music.

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Heather Chastain

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Heather Chastain is a seasoned marketing and communications professional. An Emmy-award winning journalist, Heather is a versatile communicator.
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