Sunnyside community bands together after outdoor piano vandalized

Front panel of Quartet YYC piano was torn off

Posted: November 03, 2019
Last Updated: November 03, 2019

The front of the Quartet YYC piano in Sunnyside was torn off this weekend. (Tamara Lee)

A community art project is working as intended by drawing Sunnyside closer together, after an act of vandalism threatened to end the experiment for good.

If you walked or drove under the LRT bridge on Memorial Drive and 9A Street in northwest Calgary in the past two months, you may have found yourself treated to an impromptu concert.

Quartet — a project by placemaking artist Tamara Lee — invited passerbys to spontaneously tickle the ivories of an outdoor piano or take a seat and listen.


But on Saturday, Lee was shocked to see the front panel torn off the 850-lb., 100-year-old Doherty upright piano.

"The piano is still playable, it's still fully functional, but all the insides are exposed," Lee said.

The outdoor piano shown before November's vandalism, left, and after, right. (Tamara Lee)

"When you put something out in public as an offering or a gift, you hope for a response. And you know that it may not be the response that you want … when things like this happen you have to be realistic. And because the piano is still functional, I have every intention of fixing it."

Lee put out a call for help to fix the piano before it's damaged any further.

Within a few hours she had heard from two neighbours — one who offered to build a box around the piano and secure it for free, and another who said if the piano is too damaged, he'd be happy to donate his to the cause.

"It's really beautiful," Lee said. "People really love to play."


She said she's happy to see the project resonating with Calgarians of all sorts.

"It's for the residents, for people who just pass by, it's for visitors, tourists, shoppers. It's for homeless people. It's for toddlers, they can bang on it," she said.

"It's wonderful to be able to steward it and put something out and have people enjoy it and invest in it and want to contribute."

Lee hopes the piano will be there for years to come. She said she's been approached by the team behind Bow to Bluff, an initiative to redesign that corridor, who have expressed interest in incorporating the piano into the future of the space.