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The colour of music: Painted pianos to dot Oak Bay

The leafy avenues of Oak Bay are about to get a little more musical, with the installation of ready-to-play pianos at three locations.
Artist Crystal Heath paints a piano that will be one of three painted by local artists that will be placed in public spaces around Oak Bay for July and August.

The leafy avenues of Oak Bay are about to get a little more musical, with the installation of ready-to-play pianos at three locations.

But the organizer behind the project is hoping the instruments add more than music: Barbara Adams has commissioned three local artists to transform them into art.

Crystal Heath, Robert Amos and Deryk Houston are painting the pianos this week.

The pianos, which will be installed for July and August, will be placed on Oak Bay Avenue at Foul Bay Road; at the end of Oliver Street on Beach Drive; and at the end of Estevan Avenue on the Esplanade.

Although they are temporary, Adams hopes they give residents a taste of what it would be like to have more public art in the neighbourhood.

It’s Adams’s first step toward bigger plans, as the municipality’s “first arts laureate,” a position she began in January.

“I’m working to enhance the profile of the arts in Oak Bay, and my plan is for 25 permanent installations in the long-term,” Adams said.

“This is temporary, just to give everyone an idea of what it would be like.”

Oak Bay is home to only one piece of public art, she said, referring to Mitsu Ikemura’s Symphony in the Sky, a mobile in the Oak Bay Recreation Centre’s lobby atrium.

“That’s the only piece of public art. We do have, of course, a fabulous heritage walk,” she said, as well as organized studio visits. “But public art is something that can complement that.”

Adams is also the co-organizer of Artishow, a summer series of rotating residencies for local artists at Victoria hotels. She is a “hobbyist” silversmith and taught art at Monterey School, where she started an artist-in-the-school program.

In addition to the three pianos, Adams has also organized three other outdoor art installations.

The first is by Nathan Scott on the front lawn of the Oak Bay Municipal Hall; the second is a piece by Chris Paul in the Oak Bay Marina parking lot; and the third is by Illarion Gallant at Lansdowne Road and Beach Drive.

Each of the three installations stands on its own.

But Adams sees them as precursors to what she calls “art spaces.”

Ideally, she said, each art space will include a sculpture or installation, a place for onlookers to sit and a space for artists to work in front of the public.

Each artist is receiving an honorarium, and any public art commissioned becomes the property of the municipality, she said.

Adams is working with a total budget of $7,500, thanks to $2,500 contributions from the municipality, the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association and Tourism Oak Bay.

She said she hopes to turn Oak Bay into a destination for the arts.

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