It’s A Wonderful Life (Not The Movie)

We’ve arrived! It’s the last month of 2016, a year that has been difficult for many people both at home and abroad. Now I’m not one of those people who believes that changing the date, whether month or year, really makes a difference in how life will be. I’m more of a “make the best of it” kind of person. Today I’m thinking about how to make the best of Air O’ Dynamic Art in the immediate future. If you have ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Of course those of you who enjoy having us at events like for us to up our game a little each time, to come with new designs.

colorful pile of broken latex balloons ready to be composted
Whoa! Are We Going to Compost Those?
That means we need new designs we can share with other balloon artists, and we need new designs we can share with clients. We’ve been working on that. On Saturday we’ll create a big balloon photo frame for the holiday celebration in Fairfax City, Virginia. We’ve only recently ventured into the world of frames so I’m thankful to all the other artists who have generously shared pictures of their work and inspired me. Certainly I’ll share a picture of mine and they can “borrow” any good ideas they see there. I remember folk singer Pete Singer saying, “Plagiarism is basic to all culture.” While respecting intellectual property is important, so is sharing thoughts and ideas so others may build on them.

To be frank, our business has been a little down this year. I could panic, but I’d prefer to make the best of it. This means using the time to improve my skills in other areas. One question I’ve pondered is, “How can I make my balloon art more entertaining?” Maybe this requires a step backwards.

An old black and white image of Marsha Gallagher dressed as Modine the Clown leaning against a tree in the 1970s.
How I Got Into Balloons
I got into balloon art through clowning. The balloons were mostly filler, or a silly little act in a larger clown show. When I appeared at events, people didn’t expect a balloon for every child any more than they expect a rabbit for every child at a magic show. The idea was to provide live entertainment, not to be a balloon animal factory. I often think about that.

Are your preschool and elementary age kids so familiar with computers and mobile devices that they can’t imagine life without them? Are you? At times this might be important, but what about those times when you’re out with other people and need to know how to interact socially? What might it be life if teachers were virtual, not warm people in the classroom providing both verbal and non-verbal feedback to your kids? How would you feel if your boss just ignored you? It would be hard to know how you’re doing. Live entertainment in your home or at the venue of your choice is a way to help kids learn:
How to participate in a group, how to give positive feedback (applause)
How to be polite (not interrupting a show)
How to wait patiently (in line for a balloon if you choose that route), How to follow directions (look with your eyes only; balloons are only for me to touch until I am ready to give them to you)
How to deal with disappointment (when they aren’t there in time to receive a balloon)

How did we get to where we are today with the expectations people have of balloon artists? Are these expectations what really serve them and their children best over the course of a lifetime? If yes, how? If no, how can I best educate the public about the benefits of using balloon art as entertainment rather than as a moment of acquisition? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think kids should never be given balloons. I just wonder how different it might be if all the kids participated in a show that ended with a huge balloon surprise for the guest of honor, often the birthday child.

To give a concrete example, I’ve been a crew member on several large balloon art projects that were public art displays. No one received balloons, but all were welcome to come and view the art, take photos of it, enjoy it while it was available.

Caucasian woman stands beside a life size rhinoceros created from gray latex balloons. An arch built of balloons displays a giraffe and a tree. Green balloon foliage covers the floor. Qualatex balloons were used to create this scene.
A Life Size Balloon Rhinoceros
Think of it as if it were a temporary museum exhibit. The work we were able to create was impressive way beyond your iconic balloon doggie. It didn’t last forever, but neither do the small pieces we create.

My final thought: Does any of this make sense to you, or am I just nuts? If it makes sense, then I see some New Years Resolutions waiting to be written.

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