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Mirrored Balloon


Residents of Massachusetts may soon be gaping at the heavens in wonder as a shining object traverses the sky. No, it isn’t a plane, it’s not a UFO and it most certainly isn’t Superman.

It’s actually a giant mobile sculpture in the form of a gleaming mirrored hot air balloon that will be introduced Friday at Long Point Wildlife Refuge on Martha’s Vineyard, a Trustees of Reservation’s property as part of a public art installation called New Horizon. It will then make its stately way for 16 days across the state, touching down 14 times at seven other Trustees’ properties before ending its progression at Field Farm in Williamstown.

Doug Aitken, the artist behind the lustrous, floating sculpture, calls its journey a “21st-century road trip.” In a press conference, he said the nomadic exhibition is meant to reflect the landscape of Massachusetts.

The progression of the floating work of art is part of the Trustees of Reservations’ Art in the Landscape initiative. The Trustees began the Art and the Landscape initiative in 2016, using nationally and internationally recognized artists “to create site-specific, public art aimed at enhancing and enriching visitor experiences at its properties,” a release states.“ Art & the Landscape ties together threads of art, nature, community and history. The installations are temporary, lasting approximately six months to a year in duration and, in the case of New Horizon, two weeks.”

Pedro Alonzo, a Boston-based independent curator who specializes in producing exhibitions that transcend the boundaries of the museum walls, said he started talking to the Trustees more than two years ago about the kinetic sculpture.

“This is the fourth iteration of Art in the Landscape, which invites contemporary artists to develop works in ways that make public see the properties differently.” he reported. “A lot of people don’t realize that the Trustees own a lot of properties across the state and some of the earlier projects were developed out in Eastern Massachusetts. But when I started to work with Doug, he said he wanted to work with all the Trustees’ sites. He said he wanted to create a giant mobile sculpture that would visit all of them.”

Visiting 117 sites proved to be impractical, but the balloon will tie eight of the sites together.

The 100- by-60-foot balloon is made of nylon covered with reflective mylar. Certified by the FAA and piloted by a professional balloon operator, it will certainly give viewers a chance to view the properties differently. On Martha’s Vineyard and again at Field Farm in Williamstown, “sunrise experience,” balloon rides and breakfasts will be offered for a $250 fee.

The balloon will pause at night at most of its stops and at some places it will be on view longer. When its pilgrimage is over, it will be stored for the future. “We don’t want it just become a memory,” said Alonzo, “but what the future will be is to be determined. We want it to be meaningful and provocative. This is really a once in a lifetime event and we encourage people to come see it.”

Doug Aitken, an American artist and filmmaker known for his large-scale outdoor installations, designed the balloon to reflect the landscape surrounding it, creating constantly changing images. Aitken also wanted the piece to be participatory and to that end each stop on the balloon’s journey will give rise to what Aitken calls a “happening,” organized by Alonzo, often involving music or a guest speaker. The balloon will provide a light show backdrop for each happening as it is illuminated by thousands of LED lights sewn into its fabric.

The happenings are meant to spark discussions about the future. “This is a moment where a many of us are apprehensive about the future,” Alonzo said. “I see this balloon functioning as a beacon that brings people together to have conversations about the future—and then to have some fun listening to music.”

Tickets for the happenings are $25 for Trustees members and $40 for nonmembers.

At a news conference announcing New Horizon Trustees president and CEO Barbara Erickson described it as “one of the most ambitious projects ever mounted by our organization.”

The balloon will be at Naumkeag in Stockbridge July 27th, where there will be a garden party from 4 to 7PM and an after party from 8-10 PM. Sunday it travels on to Field Farm in Williamstown where there will be a sunrise experience (weather permitting) from 7-10 AM.

For more information and tickets go to the Trustees’ website, please visit the ink below.