Catalyst Springs a Tuneful Surprise on Downtown Redding

Photos and video by Brandi Greene.

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.

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at
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12 Responses

  1. Debra Atlas says:

    What fun! A terrific idea. So glad it came together, and right in time for the holiday season. Well done, Catalyst!

  2. Ginny says:

    Will say the piano is colorful………. Now just need someone who really can play it!

  3. Karen C says:

    Is it always outside? I am not a piano player, but I thought they had to be kept free of moisture and even placed a certain way in a home? Or are the new ones different?

  4. Beverly Stafford says:

    Pretty clever!

  5. Bruce Ross says:

    I loved this project. Both I and Anewscafe’s readers are grateful that the video with this article was not of me but of a real piano player, the amazing Cleveland Boney.

  6. Cate says:

    So cool!! The colors of the piano bring out the autumn colors on the trees and the best of the nearby building. I think this is great – a piano makes people smile 🙂

  7. Steve DuBois Steve DuBois says:

    Love it! Great idea!

  8. Richard Christoph says:

    What a superb and creative idea! Just seeing the photo elicited a grin, but the video stimulated a hearty chuckle. Well done.

  9. Delightful — kudos to all who made this happen. I’ll look forward to giving it a try.

  10. Eddie McAllister says:

    Keeping the Beloved Community alive. Music is the universal language.

  11. Herald Marlborough says:

    Certainly no one could argue that this is anything other than wonderful! The Promenade will raise again I say!

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