Balloons Teach Surprising Lessons in Pre-College Program

July 14th, 2014 by Amanda Pierce
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Twenty-foot balloon sculptures were suspended over the quad for students, friends, and family to enjoy.

Advertising & Graphic Design, Animation, Cinematic Arts, Fashion Design, Fine Arts, Illustration, Industrial Design, Interior Design, Photography, and… balloons?

Forty-two high-schoolers descended on CCAD’s campus this summer to delve into an academic major—and take part in a  unique collaboration with world-renowned artist Jason Hackenwerth—all in the name of test driving college life.

The three-week residential program introduces students to all things CCAD, including a full class schedule, dorm living, and  life in Columbus. It also expands their artistic horizons in collaboration with a visiting artist.

Hackenwerth is a multimedia sculptor who works primarily in the medium of balloons. He has exhibited his giant, intricately twisted balloon pieces all over the world, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.  

“I was really skeptical about it at first,” admitted Claire Ward, a junior from Des Moines, IA. “I didn’t understand how we could make sculptures out of balloons, but it became really interesting.”

After a daylong crash course in inflating, tying, twisting, and manipulating the multicolored latex balloons, Hackenwerth tasked the students with creating MegaMites—wearable balloon art that students donned in Columbus’ Doo Dah parade on July 4 and at the Short North Arts District’s monthly Gallery Hop event.



“The reactions we got from children and adults were really amazing,” Ward said. “It really makes you think about what you’re doing and how art affects people.”

In the week following the Doo Dah parade, students worked with Hackenwerth to create two 20-foot balloon sculptures that were suspended by boom lifts on the campus quad for all to enjoy on the final day of the program. Multidisciplinary work from all majors—everything from photography to hand-dyed tote bags to product designs—was also on display indoors in the Canzani Center.

The collaborative project was designed in tandem with the rest of the curriculum to make students stretch, said Cat Sheridan, director of Continuing & Professional Studies.

“[The program is] rigorous enough that it truly challenges [students],” Sheridan said. “In the span of three weeks, you get to see amazing growth.”

In addition to the collaborative sculpture project, students experienced each of CCAD’s nine academic majors before deciding what they would study during the program, allowing them to explore all that the college has to offer.

For Ward, the academic immersion was what drew her to CCAD.

“College PreView really got me thinking about how many options there are for me,” she said.



Ward chose Fashion Design for her College PreView major, which led her to learn design fundamentals and fabric dying techniques.

Animation majors dove deep into augmented reality—responsive computer-generated animation that enables users to interact with a static piece of work using a smart phone or tablet with a camera.

The class got a big surprise when Lucian, an ambassador wolf from Ironwood Wolves, visited for an impromptu live sketch session.

Westerville senior Issac Olexio put newly learned skills from his Cinematic Arts classes to work and made a horror short film (his first, he said). Check out the film here.

For Canton South High School senior Jacob Schnegg, College PreView was about even more than making new friends and mastering large-scale sculpture with unconventional materials.

“This has been a really good chance to see if this is the right college for me,” Schnegg said. “So far, I think it is.”

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