I first saw the solar powered hot air balloons of Argentinian artist Tomas Saraceno in Paris in 2015 and I have been hoping to see some floating over the Hunter Valley since then. Fellow graduate Sandii Walker of Casscar Creative Arts has been working with her community art classes of ‘littlies’ and high school students to make this happen. They have been swamped with donated plastic shopping bags and are assembling them to form a huge balloon that we hope to launch in July somewhere around Cessnock. On a sunny day, wind permitting.

Plastic bags trimmed and joined to make panels about 1.5m by 4.5m

Small scale test run with one panel to rehearse the origami folds needed to make the huge balloon. The minimum size balloon to fly has 16 panels and will be 4 times larger. Bigger the better.

Saraceno’s project is called Museo Aero Solar — the museum of floating solar sculptures –and there have been more than 25 launches around the world  since 2007 (none in Australia) with balloons as big as this:

Museo Aero Solar in Prato, Italy, 2009. Photographed by Janis Elko © Museo Aero Solar, 2009.

The project is part of his greater Aerocene project, which he describes as …

… a multi-disciplinary project that foregrounds the artistic and scientific exploration of environmental issues. In the wake of the Anthropocene, the project promotes common links between social, mental, and environmental ecologies.

Inflated only by air, lifted only by the sun, carried only by the wind, towards a sustainable future.

Maybe one day we will see this floating over the valley:

First certified solar powered human flight. White Sands, New Mexico, USA. Photography by Studio Tomás Saraceno, © 2015