Placemaking projects are meant to use a collaborative process that brings people together in the public realm. What better way to achieve this than by combining art, music and imagination into one space. That’s what PBJ Design does when we put a painted piano in one of Halifax’s public spaces. A beautifully painted piano in Downtown Halifax acts as an art piece that beautifies and brightens the urban landscape. Both residents and visitors are invited to engage with the piano and fill the streets with music each summer. The public pianos have become summer landmarks that are well-known places to play music, take photos, and gather the community.

Painted public pianos have two placemaking functions. First and foremost, they are public instruments that anyone and everyone can play and listen to. Not everyone is lucky enough to grow up with access to a piano, so by putting a piano in a public place we give the whole community an opportunity to learn, play, and enjoy. We have seen crowds gather and applaud someone performing an impromptu concert. Many just choose to sit near the piano to hear its songs. Public pianos in Halifax have brought musical joy to many people, whether they are playing or listening. 

The other placemaking function PBJ Designs painted pianos have is that they act as a public art piece for the community. Public art inspires people and ignites creativity. Our #PlayMeHFX public pianos are always painted with a fun and vibrant design to attract attention. For our #PlayMeNovaScotia project, we took our public art a step further by inviting the public to participate by filling in “I love Nova Scotia because…” and drawing with chalk on the piano. This encouraged residents to celebrate all the things that make our province so fantastic. 

PBJ feels so lucky to have coordinated the public piano placemaking project in Halifax over the past 5 years. We have seen how the #PlayMeHFX pianos are able to pull people together and create a fun public space. Everyone has the opportunity to play – from those who have never touched a key to those who have been playing their whole life. The public pianos in Halifax create a space where people can learn, laugh and play together.