The Calgary Stampede unveiled our 2016 poster in the Shaikh Family Welcome Gallery of the Calgary Public Library’s central branch on October 5, 2015. Community members and Stampede volunteers and employees were thrilled when the curtain pulled back to reveal the priceless piece by award-winning local artist, Michelle Grant: Born to Buck, pictured below.

1

“When you visit the Stampede Ranch in Hanna [Alberta], you witness many scenes of horses running freely in the fields together,” said Bill Gray, president & chairman of the Calgary Stampede board of directors, “and that was the inspiration for the poster.”

The horses at the Stampede Ranch are part of the Stampede’s trademark Born to Buck program. For more than 50 years the Stampede has bred horses for their athleticism, competitive spirit and ability to perform. Dozens of Born to Buck horses have risen to international stardom.

Grant’s careful attention to detail captures the sense of movement—bringing this stunning piece of art to life. “I wanted to create awareness and conversation around our Born to Buck program,” said Gray. “To capture the spirit of this incredible Stampede program, we needed a meticulous artist who could create movement and evoke the essence of these equine athletes. I am extremely pleased with the final piece and I am proud to share it around the world as our iconic Stampede Poster.”

The annual Stampede poster is an iconic part of our organization’s history and the poster has evolved over the years. In the days before Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, the posters were the Stampede’s main piece of marketing. In 1912, looking to generate excitement about the Stampede, Guy Weadick commissioned celebrated American artist Charlie Russell to create art that would celebrate the West to be featured on the very first Stampede poster.

Celebrated American artist Charlie Russell provided the artwork for the first Stampede poster in 1912.
Celebrated American artist Charlie Russell provided the artwork for the first Stampede poster in 1912.

Just over a decade later, Weadick again sought an artist to create work for a poster. He selected noted cowboy artist (and good friend of Charlie Russell), Edward Borein. His sketch, titled “I See U,” was featured on every poster from 1923 to 1929.

Borein’s “I-SEE-U” is a celebrated Stampede icon. It is also featured on the west side of the Grandstand above the Main Entrance. In 1980, Rich Roenisch brought it to life in a bronze that stands at the Victoria Park entrance to Stampede Park.
Borein’s “I-SEE-U” is a celebrated Stampede icon. It is also featured on the west side of the Grandstand above the Main Entrance. In 1980, Rich Roenisch brought it to life in a bronze that stands at the Victoria Park entrance to Stampede Park.

In 1931, the poster style changed from Borein’s sketch to pictures of a main event with a colourful array of notes that advertised what you would find at the event. The “gigantic street parade” and “world famous chuck wagon races” were never to be missed.

Posters were mailed in cardboard wrapping with a Stampede stamp. Seen here, the 1950 poster mailer.
Posters were mailed in cardboard wrapping with a Stampede stamp. Seen here, the 1950 poster mailer.

The Stampede made a major change in the poster process in 2007. It was decided that the Stampede would commission art specifically for the poster and it would be auctioned off. This was an ideal opportunity to support western artists while highlighting the quality of art showcased annually at the Stampede. Bill Gray selected Michelle Grant as the artist for the 2016 painting. Grant is known for bringing horses to life in her work. Unlike previous original artwork that was auctioned off, Grant’s original painting will remain part of the Calgary Stampede’s permanent collection.

The painting will be on tour throughout the city in 2015 and 2016. For more information on where the artwork will be as well as how to apply to host the artwork, please contact Shannon Murray, historical specialist, at smurray@calgarystamepde.com.