Sarasota approves plan for public pianos

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SARASOTA, Fla. - City commissioners have approved a 180-day pilot program in which up to six pianos would be placed on public sidewalks during the day for anybody to play.

Under the plan, local businesses would help sponsor the pianos, and store them inside during the night. Local artists would decorate the spinet pianos, and the public would be free to play the instruments.

The Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County backed the proposal to place the pianos on sidewalks downtown. Similar programs in London and New York City inspired the proposal, according to former City Commissioner Ken Shelin, who developed the idea.

The commission approved the program by a 3-2 vote. Vice Mayor Willie Shaw expressed concerns about the nuisance the pianos might create, and Commissioner Susan Chapman said the idea wasn’t original to the city; both commissioners voted against the proposal.

Mayor Shannon Snyder and Commissioners Suzanne Atwell and Paul Caragiulo backed the program, which they said promoted interactivity and was a fun branding opportunity for downtown. Caragiulo acknowledged the potential drawbacks of the proposal, but said the commission could always take back its approval.