The popular street piano that delighted visitors and locals alike this August in Nanaimo Square is no more.
The colourful artist-painted piano played its last song last week. It was vandalized and damaged beyond repair, forcing the entire object to be dismantled and thrown away last Thursday, said Penticton city bylaw manager Tina Siebert.
However, the piano bench was saved. It remains on display at Long Gallery on Main Street as a way of remembering what was a ‘beautiful experience,’ this summer in Penticton, said Long Gallery artist and owner Jenny Long.
“We truly loved collaborating on this public art piece that brought so much joy, even for a short time,” said Long.
“We knew what we were getting into when we decided to create public art. Look at what happened to the public art on the boardwalk on Lakeshore. But the purpose of doing this is so much bigger than the actual piano.”
City pianist, composer and music teacher Justin Glibbery tickled the ivories on the piano at Nanaimo Square. A local dressed up in a mascot costume, sat down and played one day.
The piano had been transformed into a colourful, playful masterpiece by seven artists from the Long Gallery.
“The city and Downtown Penticton Association approached us in early August to create this piano and so we worked on it live in Nanaimo Square,” said Long.
She recalls one time while she was painting, a local street person sat down and started playing the most beautiful rendition of Imagine by John Lennon.
“That’s when I painted ‘Imagine All the People’,” she said. “I told Justin about it and that was the first song he played in his set on the piano,” she said.
Siebert said over the time the piano was in the square, keys had been ripped off, the front cover had been torn off and at one point, someone tried to light it on fire.
“We also had that rain so the piano had taken quite a beating. The artists had spent a lot of time making it look so beautiful so we decided that after the September long weekend we would take it away,” said Siebert.
“The piano was supposed to be displayed at Long Gallery but it was too damaged to display. At least, we were able to salvage the bench,” said Siebert.
“It was highly predictable that there would be some vandalism. But overall, this was a really positive experience for Penticton,” she said. Nanaimo Square has had its challenges over the years and this was a great way to bring some vibrancy to it, she said.
“This was a pilot project for us and we see this as a win so we will definitely consider doing it again next summer.”
The artists that contributed to painting the piano are Jenny Long, Alexandra Brooke (who painted the majority of the bench), Ron Gladish, Nettie Steuernagel and Graham Fox. The gallery’s seventh resident artist, Christina Baird, couldn’t join in on the fun due to Covid-19.
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