Outdoor pianos a great success
Creator of Keys for the City hopes to add more in coming years
Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 06:00 am
On a late afternoon this July, Ariel Boutette let her fingers dance across the keys of the street piano outside St. Albert Place.
The 15-year-old girl, blind from birth, held her head close to the instrument, let the sounds she created sink in, and then tried out another combination of tunes.
Like many others who come across the colourful instrument day after day, Boutette was drawn to the music and inspired to create some of her own.
It’s reason enough for St. Albert’s Arts and Cultural Society to rejoice in a successful “Keys for the City” street piano project.
“We just had a super response and when I am downtown and pop into the library there is always someone playing them,” said Nancy Watt, creator of the project.
“Even driving by, I do a little check and particularly that one outside St. Albert Place, it’s highly used. People are loving it.”
The project, first created during the Northern Alberta Children’s Festival in 2013, places four decorated pianos for public use throughout the city.
The pianos, all painted by local artists, are located outside city hall, Cranky’s Bike Shop, La Crema Caffé and the Grain Elevator Museum. They are available to the public from June through the end of September.
Last year, the pianos were rolled back into storage during the night, said Watt. But this year, they are being left outside. The society is only asking people to put a tarp over them, especially at night, she said.
That usually works out well, except for one recent instance where the piano at Cranky’s was left without a cover during a thunderstorm. The piano filled up with water and is now drying out, says Watt.
“Just a reminder for people that they are there for people to play and enjoy. And we want people to play and to use them, absolutely,” she said.
“But just to be mindful that they can be damaged by water so be sure to put the tarp back on when you are finished playing.”
The piano will likely become playable again but the society now has to replace all the keytops, she added. A technician will work on it to see if they can tune it again, she said.
Looking for homes
The pianos were originally donated by Don’s Piano Place, which also supplies the technician and looks after the instruments’ up-keep.
Other funding – to paint them and to buy the tarps, locks and other materials – was provided by the society and through government grants from the Alberta Culture Days, said Watt.
Watt said she wants to add at least one more piano to the collection should they get more funding next year.
“We don’t have plans at this point, but I’d love to see one at the botanic park and the Art Gallery (of St. Albert) expressed interest in one on Perron Street,” she said.
“I am sure we can find homes for more and they would be embraced.”
Watt added that she is also looking to find a home for some of the pianos during the winter.
Last year, Don’s Piano Place offered up additional storage space. This year, the library may take one in, as well as the Grain Elevator Park.
“But ideally, if we could find an indoor space, public, where they could be stored for the winter that would be ideal,” she said. “Even if they are not played, they are still on display.”