University Circle comes alive with music this summer when pianos appear for “Play Me, I’m Yours”


News Release: Monday, March 25, 2013

Here’s your chance to live out the dream of performing in public.

The Cleveland International Piano Competition and Case Western Reserve University will make that possible by bringing to Cleveland “Play Me, I’m Yours,” a public art installation of 22 working pianos to be placed—and ready for spontaneous playing—throughout University Circle this summer. “Play Me, I’m Yours” is part of an internationally touring artwork devised by British artist Luke Jerram.

The event is co-presented by the Cleveland International Piano Competition (CIPC) and Case Western Reserve, with support from the George Gund Foundation. It also was made possible by a generous gift of 22 pianos from Steinway Hall - Akron, paint from Sherwin-Williams and transportation of pianos by Allied Piano Movers.

“Play Me, I’m Yours” has appeared in nearly 40 cities from New York to China, with more than 700 brightly decorated street pianos that bear the simple instruction, “Play Me, I’m Yours.”

Performers young and old of all skill levels are encouraged to share photos and videos of their performances at, and #streetpianosCLE.

The artist will visit Cleveland to kick off the exhibition on July 18, which will feature pianos creatively designed and decorated by Case Western Reserve community and other University Circle institutions. These pianos are meant to be played—by anyone, during the day.

“Whether it is jazz, classical or pop, music is the universal language for the young and the old,” says Pierre van der Westhuizen, executive director of CIPC. “When people sit down at a piano and begin to play in public, endless and fascinating things can happen.”

The public street performances inspired by “Play Me, I’m Yours” will coincide with piano virtuosos taking stage for the Cleveland International Piano Competition, July 30 to Aug. 10, at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Severance Hall.

Case Western Reserve University plans to set up 10 pianos at various campus locations. Several are slated for Toby’s Plaza near the new Museum of Contemporary Art at the Uptown development on Euclid Avenue.
Others will be found in public spaces at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland Institute of Music, Cleveland Orchestra/Severance Hall, Cleveland International Piano Competition, The Music Settlement, The Cleveland Clinic, Museum of Contemporary Art, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and University Circle, Inc.

“This partnership with the Piano Competition provides a unique opportunity to offer an interactive experience in Uptown at Toby's Plaza at Case Western Reserve University.  This is the type of activity we envisioned for this space and one that the university is proud to sponsor,” said Lara Kalafatis, vice president for university relations at Case Western Reserve University.

Campus pianos will remain in place until Sept. 9 to give returning students a chance to participate. The other pianos are slated for UCI participating institutions, like Severance Hall and the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and will displayed and played through Aug. 12. At the end of the project, each institution gets to keep its piano. Case Western Reserve University’s pianos will continue to make music as the university works to find sustainable and creative uses for their instruments.

Jerram’s idea for public playing came to him in 2008, when bad weather cancelled a balloon installation with musicians hovering above Birmingham, England. Efforts on the artist’s behalf to keep his promise to impact the lives of 100,000 people with his art resulted in his inspiration for the “Play Me, I’m Yours” project. The British artist is also known for his “Glass Microbiology” series, based on the shapes of bacterial and viral microbes.

"I was intrigued by “Play Me, I’m Yours” when I read about the project in New York City several years ago and have been hoping that someone in Cleveland would see the potential as well,” said Deena Epstein, senior program officer for the arts at the George Gund Foundation. “I think it offers a wonderful opportunity to enliven Cleveland’s public spaces while engaging the community through the universal language of music."

Epstein also said that The Gund Foundation is interested in exploring ways that the arts can be used to reach out to new communities, build bridges between cultures, foster creativity and make Cleveland a more vibrant urban center. Play Me, I’m Yours has the potential to accomplish all these goals, she said.

In an informal web interview, Jerram explained that the installations are about everyone becoming creative. So expect some surprises when the pianos arrive this summer. And don’t be surprised at what can happen when public music is made. Jerram has reported that friendships, and even marriages, resulted from impromptu musicians meeting over the piano keys.

For information, contact Della Homenik, director of communications for the Cleveland International Piano Competition at 440.653.5005 or

Posted by: Susan Griffith, March 25, 2013 01:18 PM | News Topics: Official Release