by JULIE GRAY
You may have spotted exuberantly decorated pianos popping up around town—at Artisan Alley, Soma Coffee House and Juice Bar on East 3rd Street, and the Village Pub, to name a few places. Chandler Bridges, Jr., an assistant professor of audio engineering and sound production at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, is the impresario behind the movement he’s calling the B-Town Piano Project.
Bridges, who has been playing the piano since age 4, has two motivations. “Most people have some sort of tune in their heart,” he says. “They might know Heart and Soul or Chopsticks. I want them to be able to sit down at a piano and have the fun of sharing music with others and expressing themselves.”
He’s equally moved by the plight of piano owners who want to find a new home for an instrument they no longer play. “People love their pianos,” Bridges says. “I had one retired lady who’d had her piano since she was in third grade. She just wanted to see her piano get used.”
Pianos are heavy and expensive to move, however, which is how Bridges can help. “I’ve got friends, ramps, and dollies,” he explains. His team transports neglected but still playable pianos to local artists who decorate them. They then place the pianos around town.
The transformed pianos are visually as well as aurally tempting, Bridges says. For instance, a group of Bloomington High School South students painted an oceanic piano with fish swimming on its sides and an octopus perched next to the keyboard.
Bridges got his idea from public piano projects in New York City and Florence, Alabama. “Bloomington seemed like the perfect spot for a similar project,” he says. “I told myself that I had to see what I could do here.”
So far, he hasn’t formally incorporated as a nonprofit organization. He’s been paying for any expenses himself and has relied on enthusiastic volunteers, including Artisan Alley Executive Director Adam Nahas. Nevertheless, given the size of the instruments he’s working with, he says he does sometimes ruefully wonder, “Why didn’t I do something with piccolos?”
To find out more, visit btownpianos.com or follow the project on Instagram at @btownpianos.