In Fitchburg, Plans for a ‘Visionary Village’ to Showcase the Work of Local Artists

September 10, 2018
In Fitchburg, Plans for a 'Visionary Village' to Showcase the Work of Local Artists

The Revolving Museum's founder Jerry Beck is proposing several public works of art including the "Wheels of Wonder." PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY FSU GRADUATE JENA GROVER Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

FITCHBURG -- While it takes a village to raise a child, Jerry Beck is counting on local children to help him build the Revolving Museum’s “Visionary Village” of public art projects over the next several years.

“We are also at the forefront of a youth movement,” said Beck, founder of the museum, sitting inside the museum’s Main Street headquarters Thursday.

Behind him hung a piece of art created by his teenage daughter, which depicted 17 figures that represented the 17 lives lost this February in a Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

What grew from that shooting was a youth-led movement Beck said was long overdue.

The Revolving Museum’s upcoming series of public art installations will attempt to harness the wave of youth political and social engagement, Beck said.

Beck and collaborators have developed six proposals for public artworks that will be placed in “underutilized spaces” downtown, creating a “Visionary Village” here in Fitchburg.

“This ‘Visionary Village’ continues our efforts to support young people to have a meaningful voice, and be a catalyst to inspire their creativity to impact underutilized spaces on Main Street,” he said.

Beck plans to roll out the two public artworks each year for the next three years.

One project in the series is an arts festival that capitalizes on city’s famous Rollstone Boulder.

Dubbed, “Boulder than Ever,” the festival would see the creation of a “public art environment” featuring “totemic” sculptures that regional stone-carvers and students at Fitchburg High School and Fitchburg State University will make of stones collected from Rollstone Hill.

The second component of the piece is inspired by the Running of the Bulls. Beck has proposed a less lethal, and more local, version of the internationally famous Spanish event.

For the “Rolling of the Art Boulders,” participants will make small papier-mâché boulders that they will “race” down Prospect Street. The race would take place during the Civic Days Block Party.

Several of Beck’s proposed projects would serve as an homage to the city’s industrial past, Beck said.

One project titled, “These Shoes are Made For Walking,” is described as a nod to Fitchburg’s role in the shoe manufacturing industry.

A team of artists, along with students of all grade levels, will create a giant shoe made of colored leather on which love letters written by the community will be pasted.

Once completed, the shoe will be exhibited by being rolled down the Main Street corridor. The sculpture will also feature “small windows” through which the public can view historic photos, objects and scenes depicting people on Main Street.

Another project pays homage to the “Wheels of Fitchburg’s history.” It features a large-scale, colorful “interactive sculpture” that will be made from steel, recycled bikes, wheels and other objects.

The sculpture will stand in reference to the gears and wheels that powered the city’s old mills, and the Iver Johnson Bicycles once made here and raced by hometown hero Arthur Longsjo.

The sculpture would be placed in the park on the corner and Main and Day Street.

Creating another of the public artworks in the series could provide full-time summer jobs to as many as 20 young people, Beck said.

The young people would learn how to silk-screen T-shirts, a practice meant to inspire students to take on creative entrepreneurial-minded projects. The shirts will be sold to the public at a “village-like marketplace” downtown.

The students would also help create two huge, 20-foot tall, quilted T-shirts that will hang outside the market place as of the project called, “The Fabric of Youthful Invention.”

Another installation will see interactive films and videos made by high school and college students projected onto three 8-foot-by-8-foot weatherproof screens outside Fitchburg State University’s Theater Block. The digital component will be complemented by a mural and stained glass mosaic, he said.

The final proposal within the “Visionary Village” series aims to celebrate the Nashua River by transforming an existing awning into a public artwork that spans the entire length of a city block and connects Main Street to the Nashua River.

The awning will adorned with thousands of images of the Nashua River taken by students and community members. The project also includes outdoor seating and flowerpots that will reference the wildlife one might find in the river.

Beck said the “Visionary Village” will boost Fitchburg’s economy by helping the city become a “community-driven destination for art,” said Beck.

He is still in the process of securing funding for the projects, and could not say exactly when the first set of public displays will be unveiled.

The proposed projects, he said, were developed with input gathered through more than 100 interviews with local children, adults and city officials.

If a member of the public wants to get involved with or donate materials, Beck asked they get in touch by via email at jerrybeckrevolvingmuseum@gmail.com .

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