the steampunkin

Someone is driving around Toronto in a giant metal rat

A Cinderella-style pumpkin coach pulled by a metal rat named Rous is an art piece called The SteamPunkin and you may have spotted it out in Toronto recently.

The creation, a type of "mobile art installation," is the work of Parkdale resident Stacey Feldman. Part of the piece, the mobile rat named Rous, has been out on the streets recently, which drew looks and smiles — something Feldman hopes to do often.

"I want to be able to do this regularly to bring smiles to people’s faces and find the joy again, find that dance in your step," Feldman said.

The SteamPunkin, complete with Rous and the pumpkin-shaped coach, debuted on Sept. 5, also Feldman's birthday, with a ride around Parkdale and near the waterfront. The event was festive but it happened before Ontario imposed stricter pandemic gathering limits for Toronto.

the steampunkin

The SteamPunkin out on Sept. 5. Photo courtesy of Stacey Feldman

Though she works full-time as an executive assistant, Feldman worked weekends to complete the piece with help from a few friends.

Rous (Rodents Of Unusual Size, a reference from the movie The Princess Bride) is actually a riding lawn mower painstakingly covered with metal, said Feldman.

The idea for the artwork came after Feldman participated in many Burning Man events and worked on four large-scale art installations. Working on the pieces meant she was tied to one location in the festival and wasn’t able to move around much.

"I never got the chance to really go out and explore," Feldman said.

So in 2020 she wanted to create a moveable art installation.

She drew up the designs, applied for the festival in the Nevada desert — the plans were moving ahead. Feldman got an old riding lawn mower and a trailer for the Cinderella-style pumpkin coach.

the steampunkin

The SteamPunkin is decked out with lights. Photo courtesy of Stacey Feldman.

"Then COVID hit," she said. Like everything else in 2020, Burning Man was cancelled. Her helpers could no longer assist her in the project and she had trouble sourcing materials. At one point she felt like giving up.

"Then I thought, you know what 'now is a better chance than any to just keep going with it and figure it out'," she said.

Burning Man's loss is Toronto's gain, however, and after a few setbacks, Feldman completed her magical, steampunk-inspired piece.

The Cinderella theme recovers "elements of Charles Perrault's 1697 version" — he first introduced the scene of "the pumpkin and animal friends, being transformed by magic," she says in an artist statement.

"The Cinderella archetype boils down to a story about finding a way to oppose unjust oppression and rise above through magic change," the statement continues.

Also, 2020 marks the first year of a 12-year cycle of the Chinese calendar starting with the rat — the same symbol she was born under.

The piece has themes that resonate in 2020.

"The retro-futuristic decor plays with the existing tension between past, present, and future; cogs being interlocked and ticking together in this great SteamPunkin machine reminds us about how the future was seen from the past and how the strength of the collective helped shaping the future," Feldman wrote.

the steampunkin

Rous is a refurbished riding lawn mower. Photo courtesy of Stacey Feldman.

If you missed The SteamPunkin the first time, Feldman plans to bring the piece out again on Oct. 31 for Halloween with DJs playing on the coach.

"It will be a mobile art-installation through the west-end of Toronto," she said.

This time, due to changes to gatherings limits, The SteamPunkin won’t stop for an impromptu parties.

The SteamPunkin is also available for private events.

Lead photo by

Olga Rodriguez

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