Yes, Reader: There Are Now Pianos on Car-Free JFK Drive in SF

This week, two pianos joined the JFK Promenade’s mashup of new murals and other public art installations.

San Francisco has a propensity for putting pianos in unique, unexpected places. Over the years, the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society (SFBGS) has hosted its annual Flower Piano event — a days-long festival that sees dozens of pianos, all of which are free to the public to use, place around the 55-acre garden — and it has grown in popularity, each and every time its held. 

Moreover, the SFBGS is located along the car-free corridor JFK Drive which became permanently off-limits to personal vehicles earlier this summer. With this fact in mind, it makes a world of sense why the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department recently installed publicly-accessible pianos on the JFK Promenade.

“Inspired by the [San Francisco Botanical Garden Society] Flower Piano, we’ve installed pianos along the JFK Promenade,” reads a tweet from the City park department. “Let your al fresco piano playing catch the rhythms of the park!”

As of publishing, it appears that there are two pianos on the JFK Promenade managed by the SF Rec and Park department.

These pianos — some of which are embellished with decorations, like sheet music adhered to their outer rims and lids — are examples of a growing number of artistic niceties to come to the 1.7-mile car-free street. Within the past month, Illuminate, the Bay Area-based nonprofit behind public light installations like The Bay Lights, partnered with local muralists to “paint the promenade”; it’s since been named “The Golden Mile” project, and it’s shaping up nicely. 

There are now massive letter blocks on the Conservatory of Flowers’s front lawn. Large, eerily adorable weiner dogs dot the road. 100 golden Adirondack chairs now line the car-free street for passersby to sit on while they sponge up the view or listen to the live music now common throughout the week.

The pianos punctuate what we all love about having a car-free JFK Drive: how giving back dangerous roadways to pedestrians begets community and allows for otherwise wild ideas — like, say, stringing pianos and murals on a road — to come to fruition.

If you’re enjoying the JFK Promenade and The Golden Mile as much as we are, for the love of G*D, vote “Yes” on Prop J for this upcoming November election to keep this public space alive.

Consider donating to Illuminate’s GoFundMe campaign set up to support the creation and continued maintenance of The Golden Mile, if you have the disposable means to do so responsibly.

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