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5760-2Photo: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian
A music and performance space in Springburn Park, Glasgow, Scotland, was created inside a steel hut by repurposing old pianos.

We had a parlor grand for many years, and I took lessons on it. It had belonged to my mother-in-law, who was much more musical than I. After I stopped playing, the piano sat forlorn a long time, drawing the attention only of toddler grandchildren. My husband decided maybe we could use the space. The piano did need work, and no one was buying a fixer-upper at the time, so he gave it away to a guy who would remove it.

What do you think that guy wanted a piano for? He planned to rent it to companies staging high-end houses before they went on the market. Ugh. What a sorry end for that piano! I like the idea in today’s article much better for an instrument that had once been loved.

Libby Brooks writes at the Guardian, “Inside a cavernous steel hut in the middle of Glasgow’s Springburn Park, the sweeping arc of keyboards, lids and carved panels has been taking shape, creating the UK’s first permanent auditorium made entirely of recycled pianos.

“Using mainly upright instruments, with a baby grand artfully sliced in half to make a corner balcony, about 40 pianos have been expertly disarticulated to create the tiered seating.

“ ‘When you dismantle a piano you end up with a kit of different parts, from the ornate front pieces to the strong planks normally hidden beneath the key,’ explains Tom Binns, who founded the Glasgow Piano City project in 2013, finding new uses for unwanted instruments in public places from hospitals to bookshops.

“It was Binns who brought together a Glasgow community activist with big plans and the Edinburgh-based instrumental innovators Pianodrome in what he says is a testament to the collaborative potential of social enterprise.

“Two years ago, Alex Docherty, a hip-hop artist and chair of Friends of Springburn Park, countered plans to demolish the site where the massive hut stands with a proposal for a community village with an event space, cafe and outdoor classroom.

“ ‘When I talk to my gran who grew up in Springburn, it used to have cinemas and places to go,’ Docherty says. ‘But since the decline in industry and the motorway demolitions [creating the unpopular dual carriageways and flyovers that bisect Springburn] they disappeared. We really need a community space in the area.’

“The area has its problems, including widespread unemployment and a high rate of drug deaths, but ‘there’s been an energy of change in Springburn over the last few years,’ Docherty says. …

“The plan to use old pianos for the seating came through Binns. He visited the team at Pianodrome, whose mobile amphitheatre has impressed audiences at previous Edinburgh festivals as a creative response to consumer culture, to see their initial constructions. ‘I thought: “This could work,” ‘ he says.

‘We were hired to design a permanent theatre space,’ says Matt Wright, a co-founder of Pianodrome. ‘It breaks down the division between audience and performer. You’re sitting on an instrument while you watch and listen to someone play.’ …

“Wright says the arrangement of benches rather than having separate seats is more appropriate to social distancing: ‘You can space people out but it doesn’t look so stark as having empty seats.’

“For Binns, the project has grown out of a respect for people’s deep connection to their individual instruments and the hopes they have when they pass them on. ‘People have an extraordinary emotional attachment to their instruments and would be heartbroken to see them go in a [dumpster]. We’re giving pianos a new life.’ ”

More here.

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5741

Photo: Katherine Anne Rose
On the south side of Glasgow every year the residents of Strathbungo decorate their windows with weird and wonderful displays for other locals to enjoy.

Here’s a grand idea to light up winter in a city. It reminds me a little of the mega jack o’lantern displays that Providence’s Roger Williams Park puts on at Halloween. Any city could do this.

Peter Ross writes at the Guardian, “Window Wanderland is a festival of lights that sees people transform their neighbourhood into a colourful playground using paper cutouts in their windows. In the streets of Strathbungo, Glasgow, the result is a night-time explosion of pop culture: Mary Poppins, the Moomins, Peter Pan, Paddington.

“The festival was founded in Bristol in 2015 by Lucy Reeves Khan, a set designer who had developed mobility problems, chronic pain and feelings of isolation following a car accident. As part of her rehabilitation, she took short walks in the streets around her home – at night, so few would see her struggling. Lonely, she glanced in lit windows at the people inside, and one evening the idea struck.

“Khan set about trying to articulate her concept to her neighbours. That wasn’t easy. ‘Nobody could understand what I was on about,’ she recalls. It wasn’t quite like Halloween, it wasn’t quite like Christmas. So she created a number of displays in her own windows as examples – and it took off from there, and has now spread to around 20 UK locations. …

“One home in Strathbungo is an angry lament for the Glasgow School of Art, which burned down recently for the second time; the windows of the home are bright with painted flame. On nearby Queen Square, Bernie Hunter, who is 24 and has cerebral palsy, has created a fond tribute to Still Game, the beloved Scottish sitcom, on the eve of its farewell series. …

“The politics of the event tend instead towards the environmental. On Regent Park Square, Emily Munro has decorated an upstairs window with the hourglass logo of Extinction Rebellion, the direct action campaigners. Her other windows show cutouts of insects, which Munro removes as the night wears on, symbolising their catastrophic decline, leaving just one – a bee.

“One home has been tricked out like a giant jukebox, with a real seven-piece band playing on the upper floor through an open window. …

“ ‘It’s beautiful, unplanned, chaotic,’ says Sarah Reid, who started this Scottish leg of the event. ‘Such a simple idea, but when people come together it creates something beautiful and powerful.’ ”

More here.

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091918-Banksy-tagged-5-NYC-boroughs-in-2013

When I was last in Manhattan, I took a photo of a putative Banksy stencil. It’s one that the gourmet food emporium Zabar’s helped to preserve in 2013, when the British street artist was said to be tagging all five New York City boroughs.

I have written often about Banksy — here, for instance. I get a real kick out of his ideas and the fact that he works by stealth. (Speaking of that, if you search on the word “stealth” at the blog, you will find all kinds of examples.)

Banksy’s art, like other street art, is not necessarily meant to last for the ages, but he has become such a phenomenon that there are now efforts to restore murals that have been painted over.

The BBC reports from Scotland, “Restoration work is under way on three early works by the artist Banksy which were accidentally painted over with grey emulsion in a Glasgow nightclub.

“The murals, which feature a gun-toting monkey in a tutu and a framed Mona Lisa, were created as part of an exhibition at The Arches in 2001. But they were mistakenly covered in 2007 then left after the club went into administration [bankruptcy] in 2015.

“A team of restorers are expected to take five months to uncover the works. … Banksy created the works, which also feature the words ‘Every time I hear the word culture I release the safety on my 9mm’ when he was beginning his career as a graffiti artist.

“They were shown as part of the ‘Peace is Tough‘ exhibition in March 2001, … but six years later, and long after Banksy had established himself as an international artist, the murals were covered with grey emulsion during refurbishment work at the nightclub.

“When the club went into administration in 2015, the then owners had considered restoring the murals and selling them to clear the club’s debts.

“Chris Bull, technical director at Fine Arts Restoration Co (Farco), which is carrying out the restoration, said the murals were the only known works by Banksy in Scotland with any provenance. …

“The new owners of the venue, Argyle Street Arches, say they now want to save the works for the nation. … Once complete the works will be put on permanent display.”

More at the BBC, here.

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Photo: SWG3/Facebook
Y
ardworks takes place May 6 and 7
, 2017, in Glasgow, Scotland.

Melita knows I like artistic graffiti. In fact, we are both such fans of Lata_65 (graffiti for old folks) that we intend to try our hand at spray painting if the organization ever comes to the Boston area.

Today Melita shared a link on Facebook about graffiti in Glasgow.

Gregor Kyle wrote at GlasgowLive, “Scotland’s first dedicated graffiti festival will take street art into the heart of the community in Glasgow and open up new opportunities for young people across the city.

“Next weekend (May 6 and 7) in Finnieston, SWG3 will host over 30 of the world’s finest graffiti artists and 50 of Scotland’s street artists at the Yardworks Festival. …

“One of its main aims is to strengthen SWG3’s bond with the local community and the city of Glasgow as a whole.

“School and youth groups have been invited, with the days featuring specialist graffiti workshops and a ‘Creation Station’ for children which will allow everyone the chance to try their hand at painting. …

“ ‘It’s Scotland’s first graffiti festival and the scale of it now, the way it has grown, it’s massive now,’ explained Gaz, who is himself a graffiti artist and part of the management team at SWG3. …

“Most Glaswegians will know SWG3 as a club and concert space but by day it is a thriving hub for artists, filled with studio spaces and workshops. Slowly but steadily it has progressed over the years with the scale and ambitions of its projects growing bigger and bigger.

” ‘The yard is now basically a massive canvas for the artists,’ continued Gaz. ‘We have rendered the walls, wrapped containers in sheet metal – at no small expense – and every surface will be perfect for the artists to paint on. …

” ‘We are trying to build a sense of community in the area, which can be hard sometimes when you have a transient population with some of the students maybe only staying in the flats here for a term and then moving on.

“ ‘Finnieston has this reputation as this hipster area; what people forget is that there is this core population here and in the likes of Partick and Anderston who have lived here a long time. …

“ ‘The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow were fantastic for the city. They drew people together and, through a number of projects, connected me with a lot of other artists and graffiti writers that I didn’t know in the city.

“ ‘We will be looking to run workshops in the summer for young people and will try to play our part in improving the area and bringing the community together.’ ”

More at GlasgowLive, here.

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Early last month, an unusual tribute took place at Waterloo Station, London. How I would have liked to be there and see return to life the soldiers who died in the devastating Battle of the Somme in World War I!

Charlotte Higgins at the Guardian describes what the event was like.

There “were about 20 young men, immediately conspicuous because they were dressed in the dull-green uniforms of the first world war. They were just there: not speaking, not even moving very much. Waiting, expressionless, for who knows what.

“A small crowd gathered, taking photographs. A woman caught the eye of one of the men. She tried to speak to him. Without speaking or dropping his gaze, he pulled a small card out of his pocket and handed it to her.

 

‘Lance Corporal John Arthur Green,’ it read. ‘1st/9th Battalion, London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles). Died at the Somme on 1 July 1916. Aged 24 years.’

“There were similar scenes across the UK. … They gathered on the steps of the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow. They smoked roll-ups outside Bristol Temple Meads and marched, metal-tipped boots ringing, through Manchester Piccadilly. They stood in clumps by the entrance to Queen’s University, Belfast, and sat on the market cross in Lerwick, Shetland. …

“The event, which unfolded without advance publicity, can now be revealed as a work by Jeremy Deller, the Turner prize-winning artist …

“The participants were a volunteer army of non-professional performers, including social workers, farmers, security guards, farmers, shop assistants, students, labourers, flight attendants and schoolboys. All were sworn to secrecy, and rehearsals took place across the country over the past months. Deller worked with Rufus Norris, the artistic director of the National Theatre in London, and theatres throughout the UK to train the volunteer army.” More.

Photo: Alicia Canter for the Guardian
Soldiers at Waterloo station, London. Each represents a real person who died in the Battle of the Somme.

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The last tidbit from my recent New York City trip is about the Kelpies on loan in Bryant Park, near the New York Public Library.

Kelpies are water spirits of Scottish folklore, typically taking the form of a horse. Artist Andy Scott was inspired by the legends to create giant ones for Helix Park in Falkirk, Scotland.

The ones in New York are smaller maquettes but still pretty huge.

The artist writes that he came up with an idea eight years ago about “mystical water-borne equine creatures. …

“Since then it has evolved dramatically and in the process the ethos and function has shifted from the original concept. Falkirk was my father’s home town and that inherited link to the town has been one of my driving inspirations. A sense of deep personal legacy has informed my thinking from the outset …

“The mythological associations behind the original brief have been absorbed by other sources of inspiration in the creative processes, and the ancient ethereal water spirits have been forged into engineered monuments. The Kelpies are modeled on heavy horses (two Clydesdales of Glasgow City Council actually served as models in the process), and it is this theme of working horses which captured my imagination and drove the project.”

The website adds that the Kelpies in New York City “were installed by Andy and his colleague Simon Chambers, with the assistance of the American Scottish Foundation, the Bryant Park Corporation, Mariano Brothers freight & cranes, Synlawn matting and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Thanks to Creative Scotland for their funding assistance towards the costs of the transport and install.”

You really have to check out Scott’s website. The full-size sculptures are unbelievable. Click here.

Kelpies-Bryant-Park

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The Edinburgh Fringe Festival of short theater pieces always sounds like as much fun as the Newport Folk Festival of the 1960s. Maybe more fun.

An intriguing example is described in the August 16, 2011, issue of the Guardian.

“Some shows at the Edinburgh festival are daylight robbery. Some are cheap at the price, and some cost nothing. There is only one show at this year’s festival, however, that invites members of the audience to come on stage and shred their banknotes. And the surprise of it is, people do it.

“Gary McNair, a Glasgow-based theatre-maker, is the artist behind the one-man show Crunch, which runs until 27 August at Forest Fringe. Conceived in the wake of the financial crisis, while McNair was an associate artist of the National Theatre of Scotland, the show seeks to critique money as a belief system. In it, McNair promises a ‘five-step programme’ to ‘release you from the terrors of the financial system.’ …

“The climax of the show was … the moment when he suggested members of the audience feed their hard-earned cash through an office shredder, ‘as a vaccine against the disasters of the future, so that money and greed will lose their grip on you.’ Five did, with £10 notes as well as £5 notes returned to their owners as useless slithers of paper.” Read more here.

At YouTube, McNair Explains his art.

Meanwhile, Cookie Monster contends that “God’s Away on Business.”

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