Beginning of the Benicia Play Art program with the public unveiling of the piano

BENICIA – The sound of downtown Benicia will change on Sunday as Benicia’s first art-decorated outdoor public piano is unveiled in St. Paul’s Park.

Mayor Steve Young and other city officials will attend the event at 2 p.m. The park is located at First and East J Streets near St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

“This piano represents Benicia’s first Play Art program developed by the Benicia Arts and Culture Commission and the Public Art Committee. This program is designed to encourage community engagement in the arts and music,” Terry Scott, who heads the Arts and Culture Commission, said in a statement released by the city.

The piano was designed and painted by local artist Phyllis Hartzell. Annabelle Marie, director of the VOENA a cappella children’s choir, will perform, as will classical pianist Daniel Zhang.

“The street art program is based on a simple premise,” Scott said in the release, “to provide custom painted pianos decorated by local artists for the community at large to play.”

The hope of the Benicia Play Art program is to inspire others to perform.

“This piano, we believe, will entice many hidden musicians out of the woodwork. Essentially, they become street performers, adding to the greater vibe of our wonderful small-town community,” Scott said in the statement.

The design and painting effort took several weeks.

“Now that it’s done, I’m really happy with how it came out and I hope people enjoy the design and play the piano. It will be amazing to see people playing and others hanging around enjoying the music or singing,” Hartzell said in the statement.

Rob Gordon, of Gordon’s Piano Shop located in the Benicia Arsenal, donated the piano.

The program will continue until October. The piano will then be stored and ready for the 2023 outdoor season.

Kayleen C. Rice