There are certain learning curves to every project. The House Project just happens to come with a full set of learning slides!
Early on, one of the artists mentioned that we should turn the entire house into a giant game of snakes & ladders. I guess that kind of stuck with Wayne Garrett and I, because we decided to install a slide from the main floor of the house, down through the floor and into the basement. The only problem was this: one of the unofficial mandates of the show is to make everything from recycled or re-appropriated materials, and to get all of our materials for free. While this is flexible, artists like Lane Shordee have taken it to heart (he’s spent $17 on hardware so far, and that might be all the money he needs!) For Wayne and I, finding a used, free slide seemed like a daunting task… so I did what any recently educated Calgary-raised citizen would do. I called 3-1-1.
Our conversation went like this:
311: Hello, this is 3-1-1, how can I help you?
me: Hi… I’m calling with a kind of odd question. Where do playground slides go when parks are done with them? Like, is there a slide burial ground or something?
311: hm, I’ll forward your question to Parks. They’ll know.
That conversation happened three weeks ago. A man from Parks called me the next day and explained that most old City playground equipment gets refurbished and sent to third world countries. I asked if there were any to spare for an art project. He seemed sympathetic, but the scrap lot, he said, had just been cleaned out. That, I feared, was that.
Several weeks passed. Wayne and I put out our feelers into the community, asking pals and parents and friends’ parents and perfect strangers if they had any old playground slides to spare. We asked facebook. No responses. No serious responses, anyway, (although one of our pals recommended that we cover a ladder with a tarp… for the rumble-strip experience.) We started getting creative. We could, we told eachother, build a slide entirely ourselves, fashioned out of 2x4s and linoleum from the kitchen. YES! That was it! We would rip apart the linoleum and build a slide.
The day that we intended to execute this plan, I got a surprise phone call from the City of Calgary.
City: Hi, are you the gal that was calling about old slides for an art project?
me: Yes that’s me… why? Do you have good news?
City: Oh yeah, we’ve got all kinds of slides. But you need it for free, eh? I know just the guy you should talk to.
Moments later I was on the phone with a fellow named Mike from CDC Recreation. Yes, he explained, he had tons of slides, and in the exact dimensions that I’d requested. How much could I afford to pay for them?
me: … We have 8 artists and $400……… the closer to free, the better…
Mike: Ah, that’s why the City sent you to me! …. Alright, I know just the place.
That’s when Mike took us to the most amazing place I’ve been in ages. Three gigantic chicken coops filled with old playground equipment – swings and slides and giant dinosaurs and more slides!
Mike: We refinish everything and send it to Africa and other third world countries… some of those kids have never even seen a playground before.
It turns out Mike is the guy who designs most of the playground equipment for Calgary Parks. A fascinating character and a really nice guy!
So, now we have a slide. The perfect slide. And even more fortuitous than this happy-go-lucky telephone call, the slide JUST managed to squeeze perfectly into Wayne’s Volvo station wagon.
Special thanks to Mike and CDC Recreation for donating this awesome equipment to our house project!