Built to ROAM
Prison labour, Model T Ford help artist build unique parade float
Xstine Cook had a dream, and in her dream was a gigantic white buffalo. On wheels. Riding, among other places, in the Stampede parade. Question: how do you build a giant white buffalo float that sits atop a fourman bicycle with practically no budget whatsoever, particularly in the middle of an economic boom that has created a labour shortage of historic proportions?
Answer: the Drumheller Institution, a medium-security federal prison.
The dream led Cook, the mother of three daughters between the ages of one and four, as well as the founder of Calgary’s Animated Objects Festival, to a lingering desire to build a “kinetic” sculpture, the sort of giant puppet you’re more likely to find in a Terry Gilliam movie than in real life. Despite her dream, she was reluctant to build a white buffalo, worried that she might be appropriating an aboriginal symbol rather than paying tribute to it.
So she set out on a journey of discovery, with more determination than resources, that took her places she never thought she’d be, from B.C. workshops to an Alberta prison. It’s a journey that ends, in some ways, at Friday’s Stampede parade, when the white buffalo makes its debut, alongside the aboriginal group Wandering Spirit and a drama group called Young Spirit Voices.