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The phrase "art made with balloons" may conjure certain images: big tops, funnel cakes, inflated dachshunds. But for Jason Hackenwerth, balloons are a fine-art medium that he can use in captivating ways.

Hackenwerth capitalizes on their strength and flexibility to build large objects, their multitude of colors to establish a mood, and their uniquely merry behavior to give his work a signature humor, even when his inspirations are more serious.

"If I was going to make big, bubble-gumball machines or motorcycles or things like that, I don't think that's going very far from its toy origins," he says. "It's still very kind of kitschy.

"So at the risk of sounding kind of snobby — I don't mean to, those are neat and fun and all — I'm more interested in contemporary art that will cause me to re-evaluate things I thought I knew about whatever it is I'm looking at, or things I've seen before."

Like any medium, balloons do present their own set of challenges; for instance, Hackenwerth says he pops about 10 percent of his when making a piece. (That can really add up when you're working with 22,000 balloons.)

So as you get acquainted with Hackenwerth and the Green Box Arts Festival (here), we hope you get reacquainted with ... balloons. We also invite you to enjoy fresh takes on public art, abstract art and even landscape art, all being unveiled this week and written about here, starting here.

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