Edmonton is mourning this week as we hear the news of ‘Piano man’ Ryan Arcand passing. Ryan was recorded playing an original song on a video that went viral in 2014, which enabled the world to see his natural born gift, if only briefly. Ryan was an artistically talented, intelligent, and compassionate man who struggled with homelessness.
Ryan, from the Alexander First Nation, grew up in and out of foster care and at a young age ended up on the streets of Edmonton. Ryan was just 46 years old when he passed away and spent nearly 30 years, the majority of his life, homeless in downtown Edmonton. Would Ryan’s life been different if historical intergenerational traumas hadn’t led to being in government care, or, if homelessness was not a socially accepted reality for far too many Canadians? Ryan struggled and lived on the fringes of society but he also helped many gain a new understanding of what people experiencing homelessness have to offer. We wonder, in his passing, have we learned anything? Can we agree that substantial changes need to happen and eliminate both homelessness and poverty in order to allow all people the ability to realize their full potential?
Ryan showed the world the human side of being homeless. He made people see past the exterior of his existence and marvel at the artist that resided inside. It’s important in this time of loss to recognize the many individuals on our streets, much like Ryan, that have the natural potential to be talented musicians, artists, scientists, and leaders. Let us all work together to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to nurture their natural abilities and realize their potential.
Ryan’s passing will leave an empty space and haunting silence in the lives of many that knew him and had the fortune to hear his soulful and emotional music while he was here. We send our condolences to his friends, family, and community.