Visual artist Leigha Lugo of Light Era Studios has teamed up with the city's Office of Cultural Affairs for her musically infused art installation project called Play On, Dallas. Lugo has painted three pianos; one will be placed in Dallas Farmers Market, one in Pegasus Plaza downtown and at Love Field airport. The locations were chosen because of their accessibility to diverse groups of people.
The goal is to create a communal, interactive setting for people to enjoy both visual art and music. During a launch event from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, all three pianos will be in Main St. Garden and musicians Poppy Xander, Daniel Porter and Parker Geiger will perform for the audience.
Lugo, a Dallas resident by way of Atlanta, is well traveled and has routinely sought out platforms that provide an opportunity to blend community service with art. The idea for Play On, Dallas came from her time living in Singapore.
“I got the opportunity to move to Singapore, and I really enjoyed getting to experience a whole new culture,” Lugo says. “I wanted to find a way to help have a positive impact on the community. I did a lot of volunteering, and I love doing that because you meet so many diverse people.”
Lugo became acquainted with staff members from the Rainbow Center, a nonprofit organization benefiting people with disabilities. She participated in a project in which she worked with children from the nonprofit on custom paint jobs for a series of chairs that were auctioned off in a fundraiser. Lugo also worked with the Rainbow Center on an initiative called Play Me I’m Yours, in which she and a group of kids painted a piano for the same purpose.
Each project influenced Lugo to create something similar in Dallas.
“I’ve moved so many places, and I feel like getting involved and giving back to your community is the best way to truly make it your home," she says. "Reach out, check in, see what your community needs and help."
She also intends to utilize Play On, Dallas as a platform to raise money for KXT radio and Fashion for Good, which works to bring about environmentally friendly and humane business practices within the fashion industry.
Lugo painted each piano with the style of a band or musician in mind. The piano at the Farmers Market was inspired by Durham, North Carolina, duo Sylvan Esso. The Love Field piano is for the New Orleans band Tank and the Bangas, and singer, rapper and drummer Anderson Paak was the inspiration behind the Pegasus Plaza piano.
The pianos aren’t meant simply to be eye-catching hubs for selfies and social media posts — although that is part of the intended social benefit. Each piano is available for public use by anyone.
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“Our goal is to provide art and an otherwise expensive, difficult-to-access musical instrument to the public so that all have the opportunity to perform, learn and teach piano,” Lugo says.
The installation will run until early September, and Lugo is in the process of planning a series of events at each location. Love Field will host regular performances in conjunction with Play On, Dallas.
“They are going to hire performers to play pretty much every week because they have an art and music program with a budget set aside for that,” Lugo says.
Multiple pop-up performances are being coordinated for each site, as well as a First Friday event Aug. 3 at the Farmers Market. Further details about subsequent programming related to Play On, Dallas will be announced in the coming weeks.