akronchildrens.org

“Ball machine” gets a face lift (Photo gallery)

Artist Tom Hollingsworth tests out the track while renovating the ball machine at Akron Children's Hospital.

Artist Tom Hollingsworth tests out the track while renovating the ball machine at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Clank! Ping! Pop! Those are the sounds of the Incrediball Circus II, also known as the “ball machine,” that greets visitors in the atrium lobby at Akron Children’s Hospital.

The 20-foot-by-9-foot-by-1½-foot audiokinetic contraption "pings" and "pangs" happily as 40 balls spring and spin through a maze of tracks and devices.

The 20-foot-by-9-foot-by-1½-foot audiokinetic contraption “pings” and “pangs” happily as 40 balls spring and spin through a maze of tracks and devices.

The ball machine was installed in 1993, during the hospital’s centennial expansion project.

The artwork is 20 feet long, 9 feet high, 16 inches deep and full of balls on tracks. The balls drop through holes, knock on chimes and gongs, go up a ball elevator and much more.

The sounds are never repeated.

This one-of-a-kind installation was created by George Rhoads, an internationally known artist of audio kinetic sculptures.

But 20 years of clanging and banging has caused some wear and tear, so the beloved ball machine is undergoing renovations this summer.

Local artist Tom Hollingsworth was hand-picked by Rhoads to do the restoration work.

“My job is to bring the ball machine back to its original luster,” said Hollingsworth. “I am going to make sure it makes every sound it’s supposed to be making and everything that’s supposed to be in motion is in motion.”

Over several weeks, Hollingsworth is painting, cleaning and replacing parts. New glass sliding doors were added for easier maintenance, and new balls that weigh the perfect 1.2 ounces for the machine have been ordered.

The goal is to make sure the 20-year-old artwork looks great for the next 20 years.

“It is an honor to put my hands on it,” Hollingsworth said. “This machine is wonderful. It represents every part of humanity. No matter what age, gender, ethnicity or religious group, they all stop to enjoy the ball machine. It grabs people at a basic level.”

Hollingsworth plans to check in on the ball machine quarterly to verify that it’s in working order. As the hospital expands yet again, the ball machine will continue to be a focal point for visitors crossing the bridge from the new building.

“The ball machine is a masterpiece of the hospital,” said Vicki Looney, Engineering department secretary. “It takes kids and parents’ minds off whatever they are going through and gives them peace and brings them happiness.”