The Cayman Islands may be small, but the talents of its people reach far and wide.
This month, Caymanian illustrator and musician Paul Chin is representing his home in Toronto, Canada, with a piano he has decorated with a Caymanian theme, as part of the Play Me, I’m Yours art installation.
Play Me, I’m Yours is a project that began in 2008 with 15 pianos being distributed across British cities in public spaces.
It has since spread to cities around the world. This year, the director of arts, culture and festivals for the 2015 Pan Am games is giving the project a Pan Am twist in Toronto, asking artists with ties to the 41 Pan Am countries to paint and decorate a piano to represent their country. These pianos are on display and available for anybody to sit down and play, or listen to, at 41 locations across the city.
Paul, who describes himself as a “one man house of creative culture”, was asked to design the Cayman Islands piano. Not bad for someone who has just graduated from OCAD University with a Bachelor of Design in Illustration – a first for a Caymanian, he says.
“I actually came across this project through the magic of Facebook,” he says. “It was literally a case of I knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone.”
“This project holds special significance for me as it’s the second project in my freelance career, right out of university and manages to marry my relationships with art/design and music,” he says. “I’ve been playing the piano for 19 years, so when I got the e-mail about this job my thought process went something like: ‘I hate painting and I have zero idea how I’m gonna pull this off but it’s a piano! I’ll figure out the rest later!’”
Titled Song of the Sea, the theme for Paul’s piano was traditional Caymanian heritage. “The colourway was chosen as reflective of the colours of old Caymanian houses. I also added some stilted wattle and daub houses to the upper front board and painted an ocean full of fish and a net on top of the fall board, then installed a life ring to the lower front board and a pair of oars to the sides of the piano.”
Paul’s musical talents are not limited to the piano, however. He also plays the clarinet, trumpet, saxophone, guitar and drums and has more recently delved into the world of hip hop, making and performing beats, and DJing. “Essentially, my entire career as a musician thinks it’s still living in the 90s,” he says. “But I’m okay with that. Nothing was terrible in the 90s – everything was amazing!”
Paul is resident DJ at a popular Toronto hot spot, Kitch.
Paul spent the first 17 years of his life playing, riding bikes and making mix tapes in Lower Valley in Grand Cayman, before heading off to Costa Rica to figure out what to do with the rest of his life (and go to school). Although he’s living big city life these days, he still returns home a couple of times a year. “Between that and the pure sorcery that is Facebook,” he says, “I feel like my Caymanian social life is still in check. The thing I think I miss the most is probably just food … sometimes all I want in life is a good plate of peppered steak or some conch fritters.”