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ONTO UMM…Poetry Project

Onto Umm collaborators Ed Marshall and Jerry Beck

Inspired by poetry, Jerry Beck shares his passion in a unique manner — on side of a truck

By Elizabeth Dobbins  

FITCHBURG — For years, reading and writing was a struggle for artist and Revolving Museum founder Jerry Beck, who was diagnosed with a rare form of dyslexia as a college student.

This history makes his current project — working with residents in New England to create and publicly display poetry — particularly “cathartic,” the Fitchburg resident said.

“This is the first time I’ve gotten my writing out in public,” Beck said. “I was always a little insecure.”

So far, the project is having a similar effect on others. Beck launched the initiative, “Onto UMM,” at the HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands in Somerville this Saturday. Visitors composed poetry in the Revolving Museum’s art truck, decorated with short poems written by Beck.

One of Beck’s pieces reads: “His diary was written in a checkbook.”

Another: “In college he learned a thesaurus was not a dinosaur.”

At the end of the day adults and children visiting his setup had collectively written hundreds of poems, which, with permission, will be workshopped and publicly displayed, Beck said.

“Maybe we can help facilitate and get their poems out of school, out of their homes, out of their notebook, out of the teachers’ hands and get them out there in public,” he said. “In that way, kids feel a sense of pride. … It’s a very potent way to get people to think.”

One woman told Beck her brother-in-law had killed himself the day before and asked to write a poem to get it “off her chest.

For some people it was first time ever writing poetry, Beck said. “It was packed. It was fantastic,” he said. “What a day.”

Beck is still deciding how the poems could be displayed but suggested projecting the pieces while driving the art truck or incorporating them into music.

He plans to park the art truck and trailer in Fitchburg for a “spontaneous” poetry writing session sometime this week or next.

From there, the truck will travel to Boston, Worcester, Nashua, Portsmouth, Portland, Providence and Hartford for similar sessions and displays.

He said the Revolving Museum is still looking for individual and business sponsors, but much of the funding for the project so far came from the Fitchburg Arts Council, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Northend Mazda and Subaru, SpeeDee Oil Change & Auto Service, River’s Brothers Auto Repair, D & G Graphics and Scott D. Houle.

Minuteman Press printed the signs on the truck, and Firestone Tires of Fitchburg donated new tires, according to Beck.

“We really hope this could be one of our largest outreach public participatory projects in the museum’s entire history,” he said.

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“MATERIALISM MADE MY WALLET GROW FANGS,” was seen by thousands from Miami Beach to Hollywood Beach.

Artist, poet, and Revolving Museum Director Jerry presented “Onto UMM…Public Art-Poetry Project,” event on South Beach for the opening of Art Basel yesterday, December 6, 1:00 – 2:00 PM. Beck, musician and singer Paulina Labowitz, and artist Coraly Rivera engaged a large public audience on the beach as single propeller plane flew Beck’s poem along the shore.

“Many people pointed fingers, took pictures with their cell phones, most smiled while others looked confused,” said Hollywood born Beck, “Certainly the hot weather of buzzing South Beach and Art Basel was the ideal place to shed light on issues of materialism.”

“The commodity-focused art world has never really interested me. I was always inspired to transform unusual public spaces with multi-disciplinary approaches to art-making that includes public participation. It has been through collaborating with artists, youth, and community members that I feel art has the potential to be a catalyst for change and creative revolution,” Beck added.

“I really appreciate Jerry’s response to Art Basel and South Beach. It was the perfect place and time to make a statement about materialism. Art Basel is certainly where there is plenty of glorified materialism. Jerry’s art is more about personal, social, ecological, political, and spiritual issues. He invites the public not to be passive but active participants and collaborators in his aesthetic process,” said artist Coraly Rivera who interpreted the project to Spanish-speaking audience members.

Attached to a single propeller advertising plane, Beck created a guerrilla-style public artwork featuring  his controversial and humorous short poem.

Art Basel is the world’s premier Modern and Contemporary Art Fair committed to the engagement of the “art-world,” including museum directors, curators, private collectors, advisors, and internationally known artists.

Beck’s public art project consists of a series of short poems presented on billboards, architecture, snow, historic places, TV commercials, and other unusual public spaces throughout the U.S. They tend to be humorous, dreamy, political and optimistic. The year-long project will also encourage the public to create short poems. Last week, Beck used an abandoned space in Fitchburg, Massachusetts to present “EVERY BOOK BEGINS BY RUBBING TWO GOOD LINES TOGETHER”.

“Poetry in public places can be extremely powerful in provoking emotions. In today’s world of tweets, cell phone text messages, quotes, and political slogans, this project invites the public to use poetry as a form of revolution. My short poems offer satirical and critical insights into American popular culture that respond to personal, social,” said Beck.

“Our family grew up playing on Hollywood Beach,” said Jerry Beck’s mother,  Sandra Beck Bernstein. “I remember Jerry building sand castles, collecting shells and making sand drawings, creating coconut head art, and enjoying the advertising airplanes that flew over the ocean. It is so funny how one’s childhood can affect a person’s future.”

Art & Poetry project will be presented on Wednesday, December 6, 2017, from 1:00 -2:00 PM between 1st and 24th Street in Miami Beach

Other short poems Beck has created in public spaces this year include:

Leonardo Da Vinci
With Crayons

Failure Is A Lover
In The
Hands Of Artists

Paradise Exists
But Mosquitoes
Got There First

Endangered Species
Called Tarzan’s
800 Number

Everybody Has A
Magic Trick Trying
To Cut You In Half