This summer I’ve been commissioned to paint a piano for the ArtsAlive Oak Bay project. Every year three or four artists are invited to transform an old upright piano with their own artwork, and the pianos are then placed outside in the Oak Bay area for July and August. I was asked to work at the St Michael’s University Junior School in Oak Bay and the piano was to be placed alongside the Oak Bay Marina on Turkey Head. The pianos are covered overnight and in wet weather, and tuned every couple of weeks. In between times they are available for anyone and everyone to play music, to watch and listen.
As Turkey Head is alongside the harbour where tourists and locals feed the seals, I’d decided to include some seals in the design. By coincidence I’d also been invited to go with my daughter-in-law and grandchildren to the Aquarium in Sidney on Mother’s Day, the ‘Centre for the Salish Sea’. Here I was enchanted by the displays of exotic underwater life, stunning colours of sea anemones, spot prawns, jellyfish, hermit crabs, pacific salmon, a million tiny creatures all happily living beneath the surface of the sea, right outside our window. Arriving at the school the next day I found the children already studying the Salish Sea, well informed about all the creatures and with a series of requests for each of them to be included in my artwork. How could I refuse?!
As I worked each day in the hallway of the school, young visitors would venture out to see my progress and give me helpful advice. ‘When I painted the Salish Sea’ said one young girl, I painted it light on the top and dark at the bottom. ‘Good idea – thanks’. ‘Can you put an octopus in there?’ ‘Oooh I don’t think I like them’ I said. Oh please…. Well ofcourse, in the end I had an octopus playing the piano. Another moment a I was given an impromtu recital by a young student, playing beautifully. I had a great time at the school. Here’s the result: