Public art took flight again in Hagerstown Friday when covers flew off 27 hot-air balloon sculptures in University Plaza and along downtown streets.
In one voice, more than about 200 people counted down the unveiling of the unique pieces created to raise money for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.
"Wow!," one woman said. "Look at it," someone else chimed in to the din of claps and cheers.
Known as Take Flight II, the balloons are the second civic arts project undertaken by the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts Foundation to raise funds for the school.
Not only have the balloons sprinkled Potomac, Washington and Franklin streets with vibrant color, they created 27 new links between the school and the community, school Principal Michael Thorsen said.
"One of the things we always want to do is connect the school into the community," he said. "The quality of life in the community is often judged by how it supports the arts, and this is just another example of how Barbara Ingram (School for the Arts) is reaching out to the community to enrich the life of everybody involved."
Each plastic balloon was initially formed by Dusty Kretzer of Hagerstown, through his business Hydroglass Inc., before it was painted by local artists.
But for Kretzer the project was personal, because his niece, Jordan Cannon, painted one of his balloons into a piece titled "Paint the World," sponsored by BISFA staff, parents and students, he said.
"It makes this not just any job," said Kretzer's wife, Jessie.
"It was personal, something I was proud to be a part of," Kretzer said.
The 27 balloons were made of partially recycled, molded plastic and feature a solar panel on the top that will power a light to shine to the base of each sculpture, Kretzer said.
They will be on display downtown from now until mid-June.
Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the first public art project by the foundation was a major draw for people to come downtown, something he expects to continue with the second phase.
"Not only was it a huge success in getting sponsors for those butterflies, but the traffic that it created in our center city for weeks afterward .... I know for a fact that these hot-air balloons will have the same effect," he said.
The first public art project featured butterflies and raised about $100,000, Pieter Bickford, co-chairman of the project, said previously.
The 27 balloon sculptures were sponsored at three levels: $5,000, $3,500 and $1,000.
Those who sponsored a balloon for $5,000 are able to keep their balloon, the others will be auctioned on June 17 during the Take Flight II Glow Event & Auction.