"Stampedagogy, or what the art of the Calgary Stampede teaches"
Associate professor Brian Rusted studies and teaches courses connected with Canadian folklore, visual culture and performance studies. The Stampede touches on all those aspects in a big way through the craft skills and knowledge of the cowboy, the visual record and art of the Stampede and the West, and the Stampede as a performance. “I think the Stampede is without question one of the dozen great festivals on Earth. And for somebody that’s interested in cultural performances, the question is why wouldn’t you want to be trying to understand it and study it?”
Along with his academic credentials, Rusted also has a view from the inside as a Stampede volunteer—one of the small army of nearly 2,000 who return each year. And as someone who studies the culture of organizations, the fact that these committed and dedicated volunteers return each year—some for upwards of 35 years in a row—is food for thought. “From my point of view, any organization that can engage volunteer support for that duration has something going for it. And it’s worth thinking about what the culture of the organization is that encourages that kind of support and participation.”
Rusted has spent a great deal of time tracing the narrative and rich history of the Stampede’s involvement with art. Two years ago he put together an exhibit for The Nickle Galleries on the main university campus. “In its 100-year history, the Stampede has collaborated with every major art institution in Alberta. Virtually all of the art associations, the Banff Centre, the art college, you name it. And you can see over that century the change in those relationships and how the Stampede understood the role of art in creating an experience of the West.”