Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Welcome to Music City

Pound out a tune on a painted piano

  • Print

Coming soon to a public space near you: basic chopsticks, the bouncy theme from Peanuts and a loose rendition of a Burton Cummings classic.

Or maybe all three -- it depends on who's taking requests.

The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, with a huge assist from the Graffiti Gallery, is rolling out a number of decorated pianos around the downtown area Thursday. Dubbed Play Your Part, seven pianos were painted in various designs by local artists and will be positioned in high-traffic areas so the public can bang out a song should the mood strike them.

Unlike the polar bears that invaded Broadway or the colourful marbles that currently dot the downtown, the pianos contain an interactive element for the public. One can actually be a part of the art. Tapping into Winnipeg's creative musical community was an important consideration, said Downtown BIZ executive director Stefano Grande.

"This is by no means a new idea; other cities have done this, and we were looking for something beyond just an art piece," he said, referencing public-piano partnerships in Montreal, Vancouver and other markets around the globe.

By total coincidence (not really), the painted pianos also strike a chord with what's happening in Manitoba this year.

The province is well into its set list on the Year of Music and We Speak Music campaigns, and the city is also hosting the 2014 Juno Awards at the end of the month.

Though the piano-as-public-art process started last August, it didn't generate real momentum until a finish line was created. The Junos served as that natural end point, meaning the folks at the Downtown BIZ and the Graffiti Gallery only had a few months to get artists (Graffiti Art Programming youth leaders, funded through the Change for the Better charity initiative) on board and ready to create.

One other thing: They needed to find a few unwanted pianos. It turns out that wasn't a problem.

"We could have done another seven this year," Grande said. "It's amazing how many pianos are out there on Kijiji and how many people are looking for a new home for a piano they have in the basement."

Chloe Chafe, resident visual artist at Studio 393, the youth outreach branch of the Graffiti Gallery, served as a mentoring artist for the project. She's been consumed with pianos -- sketching them, visualizing them -- since January and was intrigued by the creative possibilities of the project.

"It's more than just a canvas for the artists," she said. "There are different elements to it, different shapes that you need to consider when coming up with a design. You also had to think about where the piano was being placed, too, and how the design would interact with existing surroundings. It's not just going up on a white wall."

All the pianos were donated and in relatively good shape.

Six come from Winnipeg homes and the Baldwin Piano Co. donated the seventh.

Part of the fun in creating art with pianos is working past the notion of a piano as a pristine instrument or room showpiece. The delicate craftsmanship required demands an unspoken level of respect. It's rare to find a rundown baby grand or upright piano, as people care for them as they would a new vehicle or an expensive watch.

"It took the Baldwin two months to get here, sailing over the (Pacific Ocean)," said Patrick Skene, Studio 393 manager. "This is a brand-new piano, just in perfect condition. We took it out of the box and immediately started rubbing sandpaper on it like it was just a piece of wood.

"You felt like you were going to get yelled at by somebody."

Three of the seven pianos will be located outdoors: Old Market Square, under the canopy at The Forks, and in front of Portage Place. Skene figures the pianos, as public art pieces, should avoid random acts of violence. Nevertheless, gallery artists will help maintain the instruments should the need arise throughout the summer, he said.

The other pianos will be at the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre, the MTS Centre concourse, and the Manitoba Hydro Place Gallery. The seventh piano, the Juno Piano, is scheduled to be at Richardson International Airport before being moved to the Fairmont hotel.

Organizers hope to get arriving Juno artists to sign the piano during their time in Winnipeg. It will later be auctioned to raise funds for MusiCounts, which helps keep music programs alive in schools across the country.

The downtown pianos will be present throughout the summer.

adam.wazny@freepress.mb.ca

Will you play on a piano downtown? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press

Chloe Chafe and Patrick Skene, visual artists at Studio 393, which is located in the overhead walkway between The Bay and Portage Place.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 19, 2014 B1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

New Pornographers frontman says latest album is band's 'best'

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE APORIUS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS BUSINESS - cow on farm owned by cattle farmer Lloyd Buchanan near Argyle Wednesday afternoon -see Larry Kusch's story  January 04/2006
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should panhandling at intersections be banned?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google