AHEAD of hosting their fifth National Ballooning Championships, the Shire of Northam has commissioned a Western Australian artist to paint a mural acknowledging the town's hot air ballooning heritage.
Facilitated by FORM, a non-profit arts organisation based in Perth which manages public art projects throughout WA, artist Jackson Harvey's concept for the mural in Northam is garnering plenty of attention.
The mural, which spans 25 metres and is titled 'Aerial Playground', can be found in Gordon Place Laneway in the centre of the town.
It took about a week to complete.
Mr Harvey, who works in a tattoo shop in Fremantle and also creates murals for a living, said he wasn't aware of Northam's hot air ballooning history before responding to the artist's call out.
The mural features a playful juxtaposition of dancers moving through the sky with hot air balloons.
"I actually hate flying but always thought maybe I could do a hot air balloon," Mr Harvey said.
"I chatted to a few locals as I was doing the mural and heard a bit about their own familys' history with hot air ballooning.
"I thought the use of negative space to indicate sky and focal points of hot air balloons would be a really effective way to help fill up the very large wall."
Mr Harvey said there was a lot of value in commissioning art in regional towns to give them "a bit more of a sense of visual expression".
"This type of artwork is pretty typical of metropolitan areas so when you put one in a rural town in Northam it definitely stands out a lot more," Mr Harvey said.
"When it's done in a tasteful and considered way it can be a good way for a town to articulate its own identity."
Shire of Northam president Chris Antonio said the mural had received great feedback from the local community and formed part of a revitalisation strategy.
With the 2021 National Ballooning Championships scheduled to take place in Northam from August 28- September 4, Mr Antonio said it was a great tourist attraction for the town that was expected to draw about 7000 visitors to the region.
"In the Avon and Wheatbelt it's pretty hot in summer, so our tourist season is usually winter and spring and it's important we take advantage of those months," Mr Antonio said.
"Events like this are really important for our town, because if everyone that visits over the week spends $100, for example, that's a whole lot of money pumping through our local economy.
"It also benefits our neighbouring localities as well, as people also book accommodation in nearby towns during the championships because Northam gets booked out.
"We have a minimal amount of paid tickets so that we can track the amount of people at the festival for COVID."
The National Ballooning Championships require pilots to exercise skill in manoeuvring their balloons over a set course with goals, targets, scoring areas, time and distance limits.
Competing teams, which usually consist of three to four people each, drop markers which are small sandbags with streamers attached, onto or as close to the targets as they fly.
Pending COVID-19 restrictions, the championships are expected to include about 22 teams this year.
The national event was last held in Northam in 2017.
There have been numerous world record attempts out of Northam, including adventurer Steve Fossett who was the first person to achieve a solo balloon flight around the world, succeeding on his sixth attempt in 2002 and Fyodor Konyukhov who broke Steve Fossett's world record in 2016.
The shire will deliver ballooning-themed activities during the championships, including the visually spectacular 'Balloon Glow' and festival.
There will also be The History of Ballooning display at the Northam Visitor Centre, a Ballooning Photographic Gallery and a pop-up Ballooning Shop on Fitzgerald Street.
- For more information on the championships, Balloon Glow and festival go to northam.wa.gov.au