Featured Speaker: Jack Becker

Artist and Community Builder

In 1975, Jack Becker came to Minneapolis to finish his college degree at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. With a background in both theater and the visual arts, he gravitated to creating interactive art in and with communities. In 1978, he founded the nonprofit Forecast Public Art, which connects the talents and energies of artists with the needs and opportunities of communities. In addition to providing grants and workshops, Forecast publishes Public Art Review and provides consulting services. Jack routinely makes speaking appearances at events across the nation, where he shares his passion about forging partnerships and working to help artists bring their creative problem-solving skills to the table. From Jack’s perspective, artists are typically put into a box and only recognized for producing art objects that can be bought and sold to enhance the aesthetics of a space. However, artists can offer a much greater value to communities, businesses and even entire cities. They bring a heightened sense of creativity and holistic thinking that is often missing on planning committees or in neighborhood meetings.

Jack’s efforts have continuously revolved around the central theme of community. He is fascinated by people interacting with art and with each other, as such occasions result in a social or cultural experiment. One example of a participatory art installation he created was titled “DIY Fountain.” He tied one end of a 100-foot rope to a bucket, and the other end to the railing of the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, and sat back to watch the art go to work. People passing by were invited to lower the bucket down to the Mississippi River below to gather water, pull it back up and then pour the water over the side of the bridge—thereby making their own fountain. He enjoyed the way it drew a wide variety of people to line up, participate in the art, and spark conversations between people who had never before met. Jack watched as the invisible barriers between all types of people were brought down through exploration, conversation, and collaboration. The artwork generated a feeling of suspense as participants were unaware of what to expect as the consequence of pouring the water over the side of the bridge. The outcome of the water droplets hitting the river below was a sparkling visual reward shared among strangers. And all it took was a bucket and some rope!

A more recent example of connecting artists with a communal project took place at the Sheridan School, a magnet art school in Northeast Minneapolis. Artists collaborated with students, parents, teachers and other school personnel to create mural scenes on the building’s exterior. This beautiful collaboration portrayed a deeper meaning in telling the story of the school and the community. During the process, the students took on a new sense of pride and ownership for their school, and the community deepened its appreciation of the role the school could play in enhancing the neighborhood.

Jack views his current role as another progression in his life as an artist. Utilizing his creativity and knowledge, he endeavors to connect community needs with artists who can serve as valuable resources. He helps community groups broaden their perspective and view artists in a way that allows for a different problem-solving approach. Join us Saturday, October 13 to hear more about Jack’s passion for art and its role in building stronger communities!