Art Ferri plays piano a handful of times a week at the Silver Threads adjacent to the CNIB on Bay Street.
Just this week, Ferri found out he was allowed to play the grand piano in the atrium of the Patient Care Centre at Royal Jubilee Hospital and added it to his weekly rotation. Struggling with some health challenges, including defeating cancer more than a decade ago and macular degeneration – both sites are part of his regular routine.
Piano was always part of his schedule in Ottawa before moving to Oak Bay last December.
This summer he made the five pop-up public pianos painted by local artists a part of his new routine. Pianos painted by Artists Gillian Redwood, Jim McFarland, Tanta Pennington, Jonathan Gleed, and Robert Amos were installed at Turkey Head, Loon Bay Park, Cattle Point, Willows Park and Estevan Village. He played each of the five pianos this summer and fell in love with the one at Willows Beach, near his home.
Ferri says he’s been good with money, making more than he could use, and before coming here purchased an electric keyboard for a Kindergarten class in Ottawa. It was easy to transfer that philanthropy to Oak Bay when some of the pianos were auctioned off to help fund the program next year.
“I don’t need this money, so when I see an opportunity to help others, with music especially, it’s wonderful.”
This year, arts laureate Barbara Adams offered an option to lay down $1,000 up front to have an instrument donated to a cause.
“It’s a wonderful idea. Music is life,” Ferri said. “I was born at a time when your (general practitioner) delivered you at home, my father being a wonderful violinist I heard music every day at home until I married. So for me life without music is no life.”
The Willows Beach piano, painted with a scene of the beach itself, is destined for Swift House, Cool Aid Victoria supportive housing. The building, with Cool Aid’s first apartments, opened in 1991, and today is a 49-unit complex designed for people who have struggled with homelessness and maintaining a tenancy. The idea was for residents to live independently, with the support of staff trained and experienced in working with challenging behaviour.
Two other pianos went to good causes during the public art committee’s piano cabaret and fundraiser in October.
Mike Miller, president of Abstract Developments, purchased a piano for the Cridge Centre for the Family, while an anonymous donor purchased one for a Pacifica Housing site in Nanaimo.