By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Maynard – Jerry Beck has creatively covered a lot of ground with public art projects since relocating from his home state of Florida to Massachusetts in the 1980s.
He’s the founder and former artistic director of The Revolving Museum (TRM), a nomadic cultural organization. Currently serving as executive director of ArtSpace Maynard, he has literally driven topical artworks through much of central and eastern Massachusetts.
“We’re on the cusp of a cultural revolution,” he said of public art participants.
While studying at Florida State University, Beck exhibited off-campus public art throughout Tallahassee.
“Early on, I rebelled against object focus art,” he recalled. “As an 18-year-old, I did art projects with my peers and even art teachers in abandoned spaces all over Tallahassee.”
After graduating from FSU with a BFA in 1981, Beck relocated to attend Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. Once again, he transformed abandoned and underutilized spaces into public artwork. While some faculty were supportive, others would have preferred he displayed art on campus, Beck noted.
“It has changed a lot, but back then it was more traditional there,” he explained. “In Tallahassee, I could do anything at any time at any place. This was much different, so I dropped out of school in 1983.”
In 1984, Beck visited Thunder Mountain Monument in Nevada, expressly to meet Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder.
“Being out there in the middle of the desert with him was a life-altering experience,” Beck relayed. “His vision to build the monument was inspired by Native American philosophy and culture. It made me realize that if he could create an amazing participatory environment with no money, that I could create my own museum.”
Upon returning to Boston, Beck founded TRM with “The Little Train that Could… Show,” held in 12 abandoned railroad cars stationed along the city’s waterfront.
“We had every kind of art you can imagine,” he said of TRM’s inaugural project.
From 1988 to 1999, TRM occupied its first brick-and-mortar home, a donated 30,000-square-foot space in Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood. Beck returned to graduate school and earned an MFA in 1991. TRM moved to Lowell in 2002.
“I left the museum in 2009 for a variety of reasons,” Beck noted. He resumed directing TRM in 2015 in Fitchburg.
In September 2019, Beck began as executive director of ArtSpace Maynard. Its 55,000-square-foot building houses a gallery, studios for 80 artists, and a community theater group known as Acme Theater.
Beck’s wife, Coraly Rivera, is now TRM’s artistic director.
The two nonprofit cultural arts organizations collaborated in May for tours of two art mobiles titled “The Corona/Crown Project.” Starting from ArtSpace Maynard, the project traveled to communities throughout Worcester and Essex counties, and Greater Boston.
Rivera drove a 1957 Dodge Coronet decorated with depictions of “cure cells” created by over 200 artists. It towed a 10-foot sculpted head accessorized with a face mask.
Meanwhile, Beck drove a 1952 Ford pickup truck covered with bilingual poems encouraging health vigilance. It hauled a trailer carrying coronavirus-inspired art.
“It was a profound experience, especially when we went into the hardest hit neighborhoods in Chelsea and Lawrence,” Beck recounted. “When you see people’s faces who are losing their friends and family members, you realize the power of public art and acknowledging what we need to do as a community to be safe.”
On June 19, the two organizations joined forces with Boston educator and activist Darren Wells for a traveling art project titled “Wear the Mask and Speak Out.” Aligned with nationwide protests for racial justice and marking Juneteenth, its destination was a Black Lives Matter rally at Dorchester’s Town Field.
“Artists and people from all backgrounds are joining together to fight the issues that we’re facing now – from COVID-19 to racism,” Beck shared. “Art plays a critical role in supporting world cultures.”