Art as a concept is hard to define. It is often reactionary, dealing with themes or conflicts of the era. Mostly it is expressive, where an artist can create something he or she believes is beautiful, new or abstract. Art is always unique, imaginative always the product of human effort. The newly-instituted Hands On Pianos project made me consider how, exactly, I would define art. And I believe that a project like this one, sponsored by the Hopkins Center, is the epitome of a true art form.
I walked out of my cool and quiet Hitchcock dorm room on Sunday morning and was greeted by bright sunlight and a soft melody coming from what I thought was live music on the Green. With nothing else on my agenda, I walked toward the sound and encountered some young Hanover residents playing on an interestingly spray-painted piano in front of the Blunt Alumni Center. For a few weeks I had known of the Hop’s new project, but for the first time I had truly experienced it in action.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, programming directors decided to place 50 hand-decorated pianos all over the Upper Valley, many of which are sprinkled around Dartmouth’s campus and the surrounding Hanover community. I have come across a few on my daily paths to class and activities and occasionally hear some experimental notes being played. But for the first time, without really thinking about what I was doing, I stood and listened to the music and appreciated the value of the Hands On Pianos project, cleverly named with the same title initials as the founding organization itself, the Hop.
The integration of the Hands On Pianos project in the community is extensive all of the pianos were donated by local Upper Valley residents, decorated by local Upper Valley artists and installed in local Upper Valley landmarks.
A truly integrated art project, it has affected many individuals, including myself. I was moved by the music, especially in this beautiful summer weather.
Because my encounter on Sunday morning piqued my interest in the project, I decided to do some research and discovered that the Hopkins Center even included an online component to Hands On Pianos. One can take a picture or a video of themselves playing the piano, upload it to the Hop’s Facebook profile and tag the location of the piano they were playing. To incorporate this human aspect of the musical project was truly an inspiring feature, proving its importance to the Hanover community and to our society as a whole.
The Hands On Pianos project, being so deeply dependent on human interaction on all levels, results in community building. It adds positive value to the area in which it was founded and created, as well as to art in a more general sense. The project takes a basic instrument one that many people of all ages have learned and can play and places this instrument, each one decorated creatively by members of the community, in public areas.
The Hands On Pianos project represents what true art really is. It incorporates art into a society, allows for individual creativity both in the decoration of the pianos and in the music created by them and fosters a relationship with the artists and their surroundings. These pianos completely encapsulate many levels of artistic innovation. By placing such objects in accessible locations and making these musical masterpieces available to anyone who is willing to participate, the Hopkins Center has showcased the reason why the arts should never be ignored in education.
To promote the arts in a classroom or in a gallery is a direct sponsorship of innovation and creativity for particular individuals. But when looking at art in such a public atmosphere, such as a community like the Upper Valley, it is the sponsorship of what makes us human.