By John Lynds
East Boston artist J. Felipe Aguirre, a.k.a. Phil Hoa has been chosen to be the one responsible for designing and decorating the public ‘Street Pianos’ coming to East Boston next month.
The two pianos in Eastie that will be sponsored by the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association and the East Boston Branch of the Boston Public Library , will be painted by Aguirre and then placed in outdoor spaces in the neighborhood for the public to play and enjoy from September 23 – October 10, 2016.
Aguirre, who was born and raised in Colombia, moved to Spain when he was 15 years old to live with his mom and my sister.
“When I was 18, I moved to Boston to live with my dad and finish my studies,” said Aguirre. “I finished high school at East Boston High School where I felt inspired by my art teacher Ron MacGeorge to pursue an artistic career.”
Aguirre attended Montserrat College of Art in Beverly where he was studying for a degree in Graphic Design.
“But after three years I decided it was best for me and my art to take some time off,” he said. “I continue to create art while I work retail as a part time manager. I draw, paint, but mostly I do freelance design and I have a special preference for lettering and calligraphy.”
Aguirre said a lot of his work are logos and illustrations for bands and venues, though he’s been working with some other clients from different fields lately creating business cards, custom lettering, brochures, etc.
“I’d like to go back to school at some point, but I want to apply to MassArt this time,” said Aguirre. “If this option doesn’t work out well for me, I might go back to Colombia to finish my degree.”
Besides his job in retail and his freelance work, Aguirre said he tries to take time for himself and travel to different places around the US and the world to find inspiration.
“I enjoy visiting new places, meeting new people and learning from different cultures, as that can later influence my art and design work,” he said.
Aguirre was part of the street piano program when it came to Boston three years ago.
“At the time I participated with a group of young artist from a Boston summer program called Youth Design, which I attended for two years while still in high school,” said Aguirre. “Back then, Youth Design got one of the pianos and Alisa Aronson invited me to be part of it. Our piano was placed in front of State Station. I loved the project, and when I heard it was happening again this year, I decided to request a piano for myself. Being accepted to paint one of these pianos gave me the assurance and motivation I needed to not give up my art. I also invited Jesus Morales and Oscar Cristales to collaborate with me. I’ve known them since high school and are two of the most talented young artists I know in Boston.”
Street Pianos Boston was first featured in the city in 2013 when more than 500,000 people engaged with these pianos, sharing music and song in a citywide festival.
Each piano features a simple invitation, “Play Me, I’m Yours”. In 2016, The Celebrity Series of Boston made a commitment that every Boston neighborhood will have at least one piano for the community to enjoy. Organizations with connections to the community in arts, culture or other charitable areas were encouraged to apply to host a piano.
Host organizations must commit to acting as a “piano buddy”, which includes covering the piano in inclement weather, reporting any damages and locking the keyboard up every night during the two weeks of the festival. Ideally, all locations will be outdoors, visible and easily accessible to the public.
This public art installation was created by UK artist Luke Jerram and has been touring internationally since 2008. More than 1,500 pianos have now been installed in 50 cities across the globe, from New York to London. The project has reached more than 10 million people worldwide, with each new city that commissions the work becoming part of a growing legacy.
In Boston, Play Me, I’m Yours is presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston, as part of Arts for All!