By Cindy M. Cranmer
A Rockford man, who has been making balloon animals for children for more than 20 years, has sold the first art piece sculpture he has made of balloons to Ripley’s Believe It or Not museums after it was noticed at ArtPrize 2012.
James Perry’s ArtPrize piece, titled Clown Fish, consists of 3,131 balloons and more than 2,500 feet of wire. The entry was six and a half feet long and about seven feet tall with an additional 300 to 400 balloons in the base.
Perry said Ripley’s art buyer Edward Meyer, Vice President of Exhibits for Ripley Entertainment, was in Grand Rapids looking at more than 75 pieces of art.
Ripley’s looks for strange, amazing and unusual art pieces for their 32 museums in 10 countries and on four continents around the world. The bright colors and kid-friendly nature along with the unusual makeup of the sculpture – balloons – attracted Ripley’s. Perry said he believes his piece is heading to the museum in Panama City, Fla.
“I did this ArtPrize entry for my own amusement,” Perry said. “I was happy with it. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it after ArtPrize though, so I’m thrilled Ripley’s wanted it. I didn’t really keep track of my cost too much. I was happy with their offer. I didn’t really want to bring it home. I wanted it to go somewhere people could enjoy it.”
Perry said the piece should last for a few years before the balloons start deteriorating if it is well cared for.
Besides his Clown Fish entry at Courtyard by Marriott, Perry made more than 1,000 balloon animals at ArtPrize. He said he just enjoyed being a part of the whole experience. “I had a lot of fun down there,” Perry said. “It was a blast. I wanted to do something bright and colorful for ArtPrize. I wanted it to reflect what I do.” Perry makes more than 30,000 balloon animals a year. Originally, he planned it to be a one time thing but now is considering other possibilities for future years.
Perry, a graduate of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College, is a full-time performer. His shows, through his company Fun Stuff Productions, include entertainment by Dee Jay the Clown, magic, balloon animals, juggling and more. He will be at The Harvest Festival in Rockford on Saturday, Oct. 13. Perry also has regular performances at The Corner Bar in Rockford and Buffalo Wild Wings on 44th Street as the Balloon Guy. As Dee Jay the Clown, he doesn’t perform at restaurants that serve alcohol due to the family nature of Dee Jay. Perry performs at about 300 shows per year including birthday parties, festivals, corporate parties and church functions.
“I’ve been doing this most of my life,” Perry said. His family is supportive of his unusual career choice. His wife, Beth, and their children, 15-year-old Justin and 13-year-old Brittany, just see it as “a way of life.” “Doing other things just wasn’t for me,” Perry said.
Perry signs contracts for jobs a year in advance for popular dates such as New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July and suggests calling as early as possible, but with multiple shows in a day he can sometimes fit people in even at the last minute.
For more information or to work out a package price with Perry, he can be reached at (616) 874-6844.