Back in 2012, pianist Megan McGeorge walked out of Al's Den downtown to see a cellist serenading the corner of 13th and West Burnside.
"I saw this cello player completely turning this street corner into another world," McGeorge says, "and I said to my friend, 'I wish I could do that with a piano.'"
She nearly dismissed it as a passing thought, but after realizing it couldn't be pushed aside so easily, she decided to push a piano instead—on a dolly down the street from Portland Piano Co., where she'd rented it—to the same corner. By the next summer, one piano on one street corner became five spread throughout the city.
Now in its sixth season, Piano. Push. Play. (pianopushplay.com) has grown from a fleeting notion to an annual event. The organization is dedicated to rescuing and restoring old pianos, and gifting them to the streets of Portland for the months of July and August.
Partnering with local businesses like Classic Pianos and the Portland Art Museum, the program places pianos decorated by local artists—each emblazoned with the words "Please Play Me"—and named after influential ivory ticklers, including Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.
Their locations—which can found on the organization's website or new iPhone app—range from recurring favorite spots like Mount Tabor and the Portland Art Museum courtyard to newer places like Cartlandia and Bridgeport Village.
"The piano is so often in a practice room, on a stage, or behind a sign that says, 'Don't touch,'" says McGeorge. "It's big, it's heavy, and there aren't a lot out there in public spaces that are welcome to people hopping on and playing whenever they want. [Piano. Push. Play.] is helping to change that dynamic, and making it easier for people to share their music with others."
Click here for the full Best of Portland 2018 guide.