Students take Keys to the Streets

CMYK-Keys to the street-Kevin Krebs-FlickrOver the course of the next month, colourfully decorated pianos will appear across the city of Vancouver, to stay on the streets from July 1 until August 23.

Through collaboration with six post-secondary schools in the area and under the leadership of two SFU students, one current and one former, City Studio is beginning its second summer of the Keys to the Streets project.

Last year, Vancouverites were greeted by the sight of four pianos throughout the city, but this year, that number will grow to 10. Passers-by will be invited to sit down and play a tune, or simply to sit and listen to the music.

Originally inspired by the idea of a previous Semester in Dialogue SFU student, this summer’s project is being led by current SFU student Ebba Hassel and recent SFU alumna Jennifer Vallee, both of whom became involved after working with City Studio during their Semester in Dialogue at SFU.

City Studio is an “innovation hub” that unites city hall staff, community members, and university students to bring projects to life.

The goal of Keys to the Streets is to bring the community together through the art of music. Locations such as the Seawall, Robson Park, and seven others — to be revealed by the launch date of July 1 — will provide scenic spots to sit and play the pianos. Similar street musical art appearances have been implemented in cities such as Toronto, New York and Montreal.

Hassel and Vallee feel that connections are made with each stroke of the piano keys. “Even if someone just stops to listen to someone else, there’s a connection,” they stated. In the past, when one person started playing on the piano, others often joined in with their own musical instruments, creating a sort of impromptu street concert.

The pianos have been painted by local artists, and each individual piano will be looked after by a community steward, fostering further community involvement.

The culmination of this project has been a community effort in itself, brought to fruition through City Studio’s innovation and leadership, the city’s permission, and the support of local businesses. East Van Movers will help move the pianos to their destinations, Pacey’s Pianos will tune the instruments, and Delux Paint will provide the paint.

In a recent survey conducted by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), results showed that as many as one quarter of Metro Vancouverites could be experiencing social isolation. Organizers believe that, for this reason, the city can only benefit from such a project, the ultimate goal of which is the creation of a more social, vibrant, and colourfully connected community.