Vintage coin-operated horses from department stores set free in Alberta landscape






Hubby sent this story to me and I thought it was charming…

Vintage coin-operated horses from department stores set free in Alberta landscape

Mechanical rides from Woolworths, Woodward’s and Kresge’s run on solar power

By Danielle Nerman, CBC News Posted: Oct 04, 2016 7:00 PM MTLast Updated: Oct 04, 2016 7:00 PM MT

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-5-42-10-pm

A herd of vintage, coin-operated horses has been released into the southern Alberta landscape.

The kiddie rides, which stood outside Woolworths, Woodward’s, Kresge’s and Kmart between the 1950s and 1980s, have been transformed into an interactive outdoor installation near the town of Millarville, Alta.

Helios is the culmination of a three-year “backbreaking” project by Calgary artist Lisa Brawn, who restored the mechanical horses after a decade of neglect.

“They had wasp nests in them and all the wiring was chewed by mice, the motors were seized, all the paint was blistered and all the leather on the saddles was rotten. So it was a disaster.”

Nothing that some major rewiring and a whack of sandblasting couldn’t fix.

After removing more than 60 years worth of paint from the horses, Brawn covered them in silver leaf which makes them glisten in the sun.

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-5-43-03-pm

Solar-powered beauties

The horses are still mechanical, but you don’t have to give them money to get them to gallop — they are powered by southern Alberta’s long sunny days.

“So they’re completely independent just running through the field. No generators, no electrical,” said Brawn.

And while you can no longer hop on their backs and ride them, the horses start moving as soon as you step towards them thanks to motion sensors that Brawn has hidden in the Prairie grass that surrounds the Leighton Art Centre.

Helios Lisa Brawn horses

‘They’re completely independent just running through the field. No generators, no electrical,’ says Calgary artist Lisa Brawn. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

Helios horses

The vintage mechanical horses are on display at the Leighton Art Centre in Millarville, Alta.,until Nov. 26. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

Artist cashed RRSPs to fund project

Brawn initially purchased 30 mechanical horses in 2013 that were different shapes and sizes.

“I cashed in my RRSPs — sort of my life savings — just to get them in the first place,” said Brawn. She jokes that now, she can “never retire.”

Brawn’s big leap of faith has paid off, both financially and personally.

She was able to get her initial investment back by selling some of the horses that were still in good working condition to private collectors. The rest have appeared, in different iterations, in Calgary’s art scene.

Lisa Brawn

Calgary artist Lisa Brawn. (Submitted)

Using generators, she got several moving on the field at Fort Calgary in 2014 as part of Beakerhead.

“That was sort of a milestone in that I just got them all working.”

Later that year, a grant from Alberta Foundation for the Arts allowed her to upgrade the herd so they could run on batteries and be activated by remote control for the Decidedly Jazz Dance performance, Year of the Horse.

Now that Brawn has them running on solar power, she’s hoping to find them a permanent home when Helios wraps up on Nov. 26 at the Leighton Art Centre.

Year of the Horse

Decidedly Jazz Dance used some of the mechanical rides as props for its 2014 performance, Year of the Horse. (Noel Bégin/DJD)

screen-shot-2016-04-10-at-1-55-14-pm

OCTOBER BUCKET FUND!  Can we help this mini stallion have his eye and gelding surgery?!  Story here.  He was trapped in a burr filled paddock – with burrs all in his hair and on his legs, when he would rub his eye, well… this happened and was never treated.  Please donate if you can!  Thank you!  All donations are 100% tax deductible!

This is the mini stallion with the horrible, old eye injury.

This is the mini stallion with the horrible, old eye injury.



Riding Warehouse
Your purchase with Riding Warehouse through this link helps the Bucket Fund!


Supporting The Bucket Fund through Amazon Smile
Please choose HORSE AND MAN, INC when you shop via Amazon Smile through this link.



HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!



Post a comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *