From ‘Chopsticks’ to ‘Heart and Soul’: first public piano unveiled in Whitehorse – North

Visitors to the Whitehorse Fish Ladder can now tickle the ivories of a public piano while waiting for chinook salmon to swim by. 

The colourful art piece was unveiled at the Whitehorse Dam on Friday, during a run organized by Yukon Energy to celebrate its 30th anniversary (the first time the public has been allowed to cross over the top of the dam since 2009). The piano will be at the Fish Ladder for the rest of the summer. 

More pianos, each painted by a different artist, will start showing up in other locations around the city. 

Musician Grant Simpson is bringing second hand pianos to the streets and pathways of Whitehorse. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

The initiative is spearheaded by Whitehorse musician Grant Simpson. He says he was inspired by an international art installation called “Play me, I’m yours,” which features pianos put in public spaces for anyone to play. 

“To provide the city with some colour and art — both audio and visual — and that’s the basic idea,” Simpson says.

The first piano was painted by artist Shauna Jones. As a tribute to the local wildlife, she included depictions of chinook salmon, bears and a fox, as well as portraits of her two dogs.

“As I’m looking at it, I’m realizing that I must have been inspired by some of the old covers that you see on sheet music, like 20s and 1910s sheet music in terms of the style of lettering and even the colour combination.”

She says the public pianos will give people, who have not touched a piano in years, the opportunity to play. 

“Everybody’s listening and having a great time,” she says. 

A second piano will eventually go in Horwood’s Mall, in downtown Whitehorse, and Simpson hopes there will be even more around town by next summer.

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