Taking art and music to Vancouver streets

Vancouver’s Pianos on the Street program has a couple of new additions.

The program recently partnered with Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture to have two of the organization’s artists transform old pianos into works of art.

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Kickstart is the only arts organization in the province that professionally supports and promotes artists that identify as living with a disability, said Kickstart’s artistic director Yuri Arajs.

“We’re very proud of what we do and the unique perspective that the artist have,” he said.

Rose L. Williams was one of two artists from Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture to paint a piano for the Pianos on the Street program. Photo Dan Toulgoet


Artists Cat L’Hirondelle and Rose L. Williams took on the challenge of painting a piano to represent Kickstart.

Williams said when she got her first look at the piano she would be painting she knew it was well loved — the ivory on the keys was worn, and she could tell that a plant had lived on top of it for some time. It was also obvious that it had been stored for a long period of time. The dust was thick, and the wood required three layers of primer before she could get down to work.

She said she has never painted a musical instrument before and was inspired by the experience.

“The piano itself is symbolic of another time, before the advent of electronic music, when music making was a larger part of domestic life, entertainment and our relationships with one another,” she said.

Most of Williams’ work revolves around nature and the human relationship with our waterways, forests and fauna. She painted her piano with an underwater scene she describes as a “kelp forest” representing the local oceans, animals and fish. She was delighted to see the piano placed on Cordova Street in Coal Harbour, just a stone’s throw from the water.

L’Hirondelle painted her piano bright blue and adorned it with crows to represent life on the East Side of the city and the ever present bird. For her, being a disabled artist means painting with other people’s hands. This means making art becomes a different process because her “hands” have a shift and she has to work within those parameters.

L’Hirondelle’s piano is in the TD Plaza at Granville and Georgia streets.



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