Jerry Beck is a public artist, poet, community activist, and educator. He founded The Revolving Museum (TRM) in 1984 with “The Little Train That Could…Show,” a collaborative public artwork that transformed 12 abandoned railroad cars displayed along Boston’s waterfront. The multi-disciplinary project involved over 100 artists along with homeless members who lived in the train. After this project, Beck began leading teams of artists, youth, and community members to revitalizing many other underutilized urban spaces, including a public art project on one of the Boston Harbor Islands, featuring a boat ride cabaret and journey through a legendary haunted civil war fort; a site-specific public art project consisting of a building made entirely of newspaper at a landfill site in Queens, NY; a public participatory public artwork transforming the unused atrium at Boston City Hall; a theatrical performance and film projection in the largest mica mine in the US; and, in 2018, Beck and TRM involved over 5,000 artists and youth in “Project Soar: The World’s Largest Paper Airplane,” that received international attention.
Beck also renovates vehicles of travel which expanded his outreach into underserved neighborhoods and communities throughout New England. To date, he has renovated and embellished six airline baggage carts, a vintage ice cream truck, housekeeping pushcarts, a book-mobile, sailboats, school buses, trailers, bikes and skateboards. In 2019, Beck redesigned a 1952 Ford pick-up truck and a 20-foot trailer into the “Poetry Public Art” art-mobile. He outfitted the truck with interactive components, video projection units, solar lighting, and gallery space that showcased over 500 poems penned by numerous Massachusetts poets and over 150 students from Fitchburg public schools. The interactive poetry-mobile traveled for six months throughout New England, making planned and spontaneous stops at festivals, parks, museums, shopping malls, town centers, and many under-utilized public spaces.
Beck’s public art projects foster a meaningful dialogue about art, the urban and natural environment, site history, social issues, and political concerns as well as creating a new sense of community between artists and the public. TRM’s signature phrase, “Making Space for Art and Community,” suggests the collaborative nature of the Beck’s vision: the belief that a community can be strengthened through an introduction to art, to one another, to contemporary social, environmental and political concerns, and to the unlimited artistic possibilities of their shared environment. Through the simple act of creative expression — visual, musical, literary, theatrical, and community-building events — Beck and The Revolving Museum provided the public with an opportunity to discover their artistic talents, sometimes for their first time, inviting everyone to take on the role of a public artist; an individual who utilizes his or her own creative talents to contribute to the well being of the community.
In 2007, The Revolving Museum received the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Commonwealth Award in the category of “Community,” the state’s highest honor in the arts, humanities and sciences. In 2012, TRM was a finalist for The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (the selection committee included the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services), for providing learning opportunities to young people. Notable grants received by The Revolving Museum include multiple National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Arts International grant, New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) grants, and multiple Massachusetts Cultural Council grants.
Beck’s public artwork and exhibitions has been widely exhibited, including at the American Visionary Art Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, RISD Museum, Artists Space in New York City, Miami Jewish Museum, Rose Art Museum, Capp Street Project in San Francisco, Mass MoCA, Howard Yezerski Gallery, Barbara Krakow Gallery, and Creative Time’s “Art on the Beach.” Beck received his MFA from Tufts University/School of the Museum of Fine Arts and his BFA from Florida State University.