Fine art fusion

The music and art departments collaborate on a random act of culture, blending live art with spontaneous music in a communal effort to promote the arts.




Jenna Schmidt, Writer

From opera singers at the Fluor Fountain to orchestra members playing outside of Chase Gymnasium, Random Acts of Culture by the Conservatory of Music expose students to different forms of art.

Now the conservatory partners alongside the art department in a joint project to not only expose students to music and art, but also to pair the departments in a new way.


Many have already noticed the upright piano placed in front of Crowell Music Hall. The piano provides a place for students to play outside of the dorms and practice rooms, but it is also the focal point of this new project between the music and art departments — to not only play music on the piano, but turn the instrument itself into a work of art.

“What we’re looking to do is promote the arts around campus,” junior composition major Jonah Gallagher said. “Random acts have always tried to bring music into the everyday life of the university. We wanted not just to be music, but to be a promotion of art around campus.”

University curator Jeff Rau said the project was inspired by an art project in Seattle, where artists transformed ordinary upright pianos around the city.

“Our hope was take these old instruments and give them a new, transformed existence, a new life by having an artist rework it physically,” Rau said. “Whether that’s treating the surface by painting on it or even building off of that surface to create a sculptural form out of the piano … but maintain its functionality so that it could still be played.”


Senior music education and performance major Darlene Favenir spoke to the change that this project brings to the usual “random acts.” Rather than just a musician performing and then leaving, this project changes the pace.

“Instead of us music majors just giving the music, now the rest of the community can engage in it. It’s really a communal, collaborative effort,” Favenir said.

Gallagher noted one of the perks of the project is that while there are a lot of pianists on campus with material to play, there is not always a place on campus for them to play since the piano is not the most portable instrument.

“One of the things that we wanted to do was to give these people who have music to share the ability to share it,” Gallagher said.

“We usually see the end product of art, in galleries and things, but we never get to see that live. Bringing that transforming process to campus in a live way is just so cool,” Favenir said. She added that she would like to see the piano project not only transform in its own way through the semester, but also grow into multiple new joint projects between the music and art departments. “That would be really exciting to see it transform over time.”


The piano project has already transformed since its beginning, becoming a much larger project than many expected. Junior art major Hannah Brown, one of the initial members of the art department to get involved with the project, said it has since opened up to the whole art department.

“I was originally the only one planned to work on the piano, but when we realized that we were hoping to do more in the future, it opened up for all of the art students to work on it,” Brown said. “I painted the landscape on one side, but another student painted the other side of the piano, so it turned out being a really great collaborative work.”

Brown admitted the transition from studio work to live art in a public place was a different experience, showing a side of art that normally goes unseen.

“The process of art is very vulnerable, and sometimes messy,” Brown said. “It doesn’t make sense until it’s finished. And painting, since that’s a process that people are familiar with… it became a neat point of connection with people, since it’s fun to see someone doing something you love.”

Rau noted that he hopes that this particular project is not completed with this one instance of the piano in front of Crowell.

“This really is just a case of what we imagine the project could be and I hope to come back and realize that more fully,” Rau said. “The piano is offered as a gesture, an open gift to the possibility of public engagement, that people sit down and play and activate the place with music in a very participatory way.”

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