Catalyst Redding Young Professionals are constantly on the lookout for ways to enhance Redding’s vibe. The group’s latest gambit, a brightly painted piano on the Market Street Promenade in downtown Redding, appears to have struck the perfect note.
“We want people to interact with it, and with each other, and maybe see Redding with a different lens for a little bit of time,” explained Brandi Greene, a facilitator with Catalyst. The piano made its debut last weekend and almost immediately started attracting attention.
“We were looking for moments of whimsy and active participation and we’ve seen it,” Greene said. “Right as they put it out, a woman who none of us knew walked past and had a big smile, and then she tinkled the keys. Then she came back and took a picture.”
The piano has a strong appeal for children, Greene said. “They’re not afraid to reach out. They went right up and played it. The adults are a little more tentative. We had an impromptu jam session on Sunday and everybody came out and played. It was amazing to see adults take turns, just like children take turns. There were maybe10 adults and some children and teenagers as well.”
The piano idea originated with Rachel and Aaron Hatch, longtime Catalyst members who were also instrumental in organizing the Redding TEDx talks. Rachel Hatch is now the McConnell Foundation’s program officer for community vitality and the McConnell Foundation is credited with purchasing the piano on behalf of Catalyst.
Gifted designer and artist Emily Applekamp gladly assumed responsibility for painting the piano and she drew inspiration from the stained-glass columns that stand at the former intersection of Market and Butte streets. “They have such a history with the old downtown mall as well as being one of the more visually striking parts of the current Promenade area,” Applekamp said.
“Catalyst’s mission has always been to improve the vibe of Redding, and I believe that art in unexpected places contributes to that. The bonus of this particular type of art is that it’s interactive and available to everyone,” Applekamp said.
The Promenade can be kind of dreary, Greene said, and it became a natural target for the popup piano project. “This is a very obvious vibe improvement. I was there at different times during the weekend and it was amazing the people who came through and happened upon it. It was kind of this wonderful surprise,” Greene said.
Hansen’s Moving and Storage has volunteered its services for moving the piano and plans are to make the instrument available when inclement weather is not in the forecast. Greene said Catalyst is busy securing two more pianos that will be painted and positioned in to-be-determined locations.
“Our hope is the pianos are well loved and well used. If they aren’t treated well, that’s the reality. Once they’re used up, we’ll find other ones or try something else,” Greene said.
“We've been so encouraged by this project that we're already working on getting more pianos, and hope to have to pop up pianos at various public places around town ... stay tuned!” said Applekamp, an inveterate punster.