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VIDEO: Oak Bay piano brings generations together before the music even begins

Local artist leads community to create mandalas for intergenerational project

A piano planned for the heart of Estevan Village already connects generations.

Each year pianos painted by artists are set in public spaces throughout Oak Bay, encouraging passersby to play. There are five, tucked away in homes for the winter, pulled out and set up at spaces such as Cattle Point, Spewhung/Turkey Head, Chikawich/McNeill Bay, Loon Bay and Sitchanalth/Willows Beach each summer as part of the Oak Bay Arts Alive program.

Over the years several pianos have been painted by acclaimed local artists on-site in schools and then sold to support the program. For example, a painted piano from the 2015 tour brightens the lives of residents at Pacifica Housing’s Medewiwin supported housing complex. Artist Daciana Dao painted the piano, working for a month at Willows elementary where she was often visited by curious kids and teachers.

For 2022, five remain with the hope of bringing music to six sites as Oak Bay acting arts and culture programmer Andrea Pass has planned a new one.

READ ALSO: Kinship connects 6 sculptures that make up Oak Bay Arts Alive

She brainstormed with Oak Bay resident and artist Jennifer McIntyre and the two came up with something to draw generations together even before the music begins.

“I really thought coming out of the pandemic it’s really important to connect different ages together,” Pass said.

The pair started with polka dots on the mind and then leapt to mandalas.

Now McIntyre is leading new artists including a half-dozen ladies at Carlton House and a gaggle of girls at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre at Oak Bay High. McIntyre is also gathering paper creations from across the community, including artists as young as four and as life-experienced as 91.

“It would be nice to have some teenagers but they’re really busy right now,” she said.

Each mandala starts with an affirmation word such as joy, calm, earth and sweet. The word is repeated around the circumference of a circular page, the letters reading from the middle to the outer edge.

“The letters are a starting point for a design and pattern,” McIntyre explained. “The word eventually disappears and becomes a structure for the mandala.”

The artist then paints the loops and designs created by the word layering until the design is deemed complete.

McIntyre will apply the mandalas to a freshly-painted piano, slated for July installation in Estevan Village near Jennings Florist.

“I’m hoping we can get these six ladies organized and take them to Estevan for coffee and bring in a pianist and have a little concert on the piano once it’s finished,” she said.

Perhaps they’ll find a teen pianist to perform.

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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