See Balloon Aviaries in Catskill, without sending in the clowns

Who doesn’t love a balloon (except possibly Dorothy after the Wizard took off in one without her)?  As a child, they (especially when twisted into interesting shapes) were the sole motivation that could get me to consider going anywhere near a clown.Channeled through Nena, 99 Luft ones could even make Nuclear Annihilation seem fun.


Multiply that times 6,000, throw in the artist Jason Hackenwerth with an opportunity to explore the village of Catskill, and you have one of the must-see art installations in the Hudson Valley this spring.  “Aviary”, a temporary piece commissioned by Works & Process for their 30th Anniversary Gala at the Guggenheim Museum, was dismantled last Wednesday, shipped up to Catskill and is being repurposed as “Aviary Reimagined” for the Greene County Council on the Arts Masters on Main Street Program. Ordinarily a piece like this would have been destroyed after its one night star turn at the New York City Gala, however, Works & Process General Manager Duke Dang asked the artist if he could bring the work to Catskill, where he has a weekend home.   Hackenworth assented, the sculpture was dismantled, and the balloons were shipped in two trucks to Catskill, where they were reassembled over the weekend by a team headed by his assistant Leah Blair.  As the village does not have an empty space on a scale akin to the Guggenheim’s rotunda, the installation has been converted into several new ones which will on display in two different locations – the largest, a bell shaped piece can be found in the future home of the Bridge Street Theatre, at 44 West Bridge St.  Other sculptures will be on display at 404 Main Street, and also at the Catskill Elementary School Cafeteria, where an original work composed of over 1000 balloons twisted and tied by over 400 students there (and blown up by parent volunteers) under the supervision of Masters on Main Street Director Fawn Potash.

I am not an art critic and won’t weigh in on the symbols, themes or more esoteric merits of the work.  The only thing I can say is for anyone who has ever watched in wonder as a flock of balloons float up and away across the sky, smiled when they received one on their birthday, or felt the irrepressible joy of watching their baby brother cry after popping one in their face, this show is for you.

There will be an opening reception on April 12th in the afternoon with additional opportunities to see the work through May 3rd.  Programming is planned around it, culminating in a reassembly of the original piece on May 4th for one day only in the parking lot of the Greene County office building.  For more information , visit the Greene County Council of the Arts website.

A Winter Look Columbia County’s Industrial Past in a Nearby State Park

Margaret “Peggy” Bedford Bancroft d’Arenberg D’Uzes