Visitors to the St. John’s International Airport might notice that the “Come Play With Me NL” public piano (installed by Business & Arts NL in 2014) has received a makeover.
Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, music is a huge part of our heritage and culture and binds us together in a way that nothing else can. It gives us the chance to express our shared stories and history no matter what city, cove or community we come from. It is a true unifying force.
The new design, painted by artist Cara Kansala of the Grumpy Goat Gallery, is a nod to our musical roots and the Newfoundland outports that help make this place so special.
“It’s been so much fun painting in a public place, getting to chat with people in the community and see reactions to what I am painting while I am working. A positive, challenging project indeed – I hope people have as much fun playing the piano as I’ve had painting it!” says Kansala, who is known for her colourful and whimsical depictions of familiar Newfoundland sights and scenery.
For John Steele – businessman (Steele Communications and Steele Hotels), pioneer sponsor of Business & Arts NL’s public piano project and proud Newfoundlander – an outport scene of people making music was an obvious choice.
“First and foremost, I’m a big music fan. But also, music is a big part of the fabric of Newfoundland and Labrador, and in outport Newfoundland it’s no different. You can get a great sense of Newfoundland by the music that’s created here. And it tells the stories of our struggles and wins, and of our joys and heartbreaks. It just gives you great insight into the Newfoundland and Labrador character,” he says.
Steele says the airport piano presented a perfect partnership opportunity – especially considering JAG Hotel (the official sponsor) in downtown St. John’s celebrates music with its classical rock inspired decor.
Since the launch of the “Come Play With Me NL” public piano project in December of 2014, there have been over 80 planned public performances around the pianos at the St. Johns’ Airport, Memorial University and other locations, bringing music fans of all generations together while exposing them to the artists’ works at the same time.
Steele says when it comes to the arts, here in Newfoundland and Labrador, “we punch above our weight.”
“I mean, 500-odd thousand people and look how many great musicians we’ve got, and poets, and writers, and actors, and sculptors. It doesn’t matter what the discipline is, we’ve got a lot of people that can really reflect what we’re about,” he says.
Music, Steele adds, is a great connector that can help bring joy and give people something to smile about. He hopes the “Come Play With Me NL” piano project will help spread this positive message.
“Right now, Newfoundland is having some challenges. That’s nothing new in our history and we’ll rise above it, we’ll get through it as we always do. But when it’s times like this, you’ve got to remember that we’ve got a lot to be thankful for and a lot to be happy about…and I think that’s one thing that the arts can do.”