Harbour Quay will soon get musical, thanks to four girls in Anne Ostwald’s social justice class at Alberni District Secondary School.
The students plan to plant a painted piano somewhere in the quay, so members of the public can pluck at the keys.
The idea came about at a pizza party hosted by the City of Port Alberni’s youth advisory committee.
“I’m on the youth advisory committee and we hosted a pizza party to get some feedback from the youth in the community,” said Freya Knapp.
“Some people from the Nanaimo youth advisory committee came and they had just started their piano project.”
Pianos placed around a community as public art is not a new concept: the city of Victoria and surrounding communities have run a similar program since 2012, when a 16-year-old high school student from Reynolds Secondary brought the idea back from a family visit to London, England, in 2010.
The idea of street pianos was originally an art project started in 2008 by English artist Luke Jerram, in Birmingham, England.
Jerram’s Play Me, I’m Yours phenomenon has spread to 50 cities worldwide and included 1,500 pianos.
Kelowna has a popular Pianos in Parks program, and Kamloops has its famous blue piano downtown.
The group of girls, made up of Knapp, Regan Pley, Frances Wilson and Becca Busby, liked the idea of painting a piano and thought it was replicable in Port Alberni.
City councillor Sharie Minions has donated a piano to the students, who will be painting it next week, before meeting with Harbour Quay merchants to decide upon a more exact placement for the instrument.
According to Ostwald, all of her social justice students are doing a diverse set of projects with one common thread—to make a difference.
“The criteria list was that they had to make a difference,” said Ostwald.
“You have to actually go and do something to qualitatively make a difference in the community to make it a better place. To me, that’s the whole thing about the projects.”
The four girls hope that their project will bring a sense of community and life to Harbour Quay.
“We thought it would bring a sense of community togetherness. It’s going to be in the Arts District at the Harbour Quay, hopefully, and so it’s something that everyone will know where it is,” said Knapp.
The piano will be for everyone to use, she added.
“Some of the ones in other cities have slogans that say ‘play me’ or ‘play music.’ Our is going to say ‘make melodies’ and it will be open for everyone to use—it’s a public piano.”