Local artists are coming together to honor the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December.
In memory of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School the Giggling Pig Art Studio started a project to create 26 hand-painted wooden heart-shaped balloons. Each of the wooden balloons will be painted in honor of one of the victims and decorated with images that represent that specific victim.
“I’m an artist and I own a studio for children,” Hanna Perry, owner of Giggling Pig Art Studio in Shelton said. “I’ve dedicated my whole life working with children and felt a need to do something, the only thing I could do was something artistic.”
Perry explained that the balloons were based on a children’s story she wrote where all of the characters met each other by following a heart-shaped balloon. She wanted to create something that was both meaningful to the families of the victims as well as something that brought people together.
“I wanted to do something that would be peaceful. Not something in your face,” Perry said.
Perry sent out a call for artists both locally and across the nation to come in and pick a balloon to design. Rose-Ann Chrzanowski of Naugatuck was one of the artists who answered the call.
Chrzanowski took painting lessons as a child in the Brooklyn Museum of Art. As an adult she worked as an art teacher in Naugatuck public schools. She has taught in every school except Hillside Intermediate School and has volunteered with the Head Start Program.
Upon entering the studio, Chrzanowski felt immediately drawn to the balloon dedicated to Naugatuck native Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, who was the principal at Sandy Hook.
It wasn’t until after she had already picked the heart and begun the work that she learned that Hochsprung’s niece, Karen Cyr-Suarez, had been her student.
When Chrzanowski finished her painting, she brought it over to show Hochsprung’s family.
“They loved it. They gave me so much more insight into the artwork,” Chrzanowski said.
Chrzanowski said Hochsprung’s family explained why some of the images she had painted on the balloon, such as the butterfly and the sunflower, were so important to Hochsprung.
While visiting the family Chrzanowski also found out that Hochsprung’s daughter, Erica Lafferty, had been in her class as well.
The wood for the project was donated by Lowes Home Improvement in Danbury, Giggling Pig employee and Naugatuck resident Katie Blake said.
Blake’s father, who works at Lowes, worked with the store manager on the donation and Blake and her husband picked up the wood.
The wood was cut into heart-shaped balloons by Lisa Chiaramonte, a Beacon Falls resident and business partner at the art studio.
Once the hearts have been completed, Giggling Pig Art Studio will place them along the route of the Sandy Hook 5K, which will take place in Hartford on March 23.
The 5K was founded by Blake and Naugatuck resident Matt Marcella.
After the 5K, the balloons will be donated and moved to the Sandy Hook Art Center for Kids where they will be a permanent fixture.