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January 6, 2012
Contact: Jessica Cuni, Gallery Director, The William Feick Arts Center

Mixed-Media Sculptor Jake Beckman Uses Tropical Storm Irene as Inspiration for Residency at Green Mountain College

POULTNEY: The William Feick Arts Center at Green Mountain College is pleased to announce the successful culmination of artist Jake Beckman's residency on campus. Beckman, who was in residence from November 14-22, mounted an installation of recent work at the Feick Arts Center in addition to creating a site-specific work on campus in collaboration with GMC community volunteers. The gallery exhibit will be on view until January 20, 2012. The sculpture that grew out of his residency project--the façade of a large, simple boat located in the flood buffer zone on the west side of campus-is now on display.

Beckman's residency marked the first of its kind sponsored by the Feick Arts Center. "We couldn't be more pleased with the results," according to gallery director and assistant professor of art Jessica Cuni. Mr. Beckman arrived with an open mind, seeking inspiration from the local environment and the college community. After brainstorming with students in an advanced art course, and meeting with GMC's geology professor John Van Hoesen, Beckman decided to create an art piece addressing the concepts of flooding, man's impact on nature and nature's impact on man, as well as our notions of (false) security. Using the Poultney River and the still-present aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene as a source of both inspiration and materials, Jake set out with students from various GMC classes to collect lumber and other debris left on the banks after Irene's floodwaters receded.

Over the course of Beckman's residency, more than 60 students participated in some capacity with the project. Students collected truckloads of debris from both the college's river bank and a Poultney resident's property where there was a particularly high concentration of garbage. These efforts had the dual intent of restoring the natural beauty of the riverbank as well as sourcing no-cost material for Beckman's collaborative piece to be built on campus. Beckman used the collected materials to construct the façade of a boat located in the flood buffer zone on the west side of campus. The boat, measuring approximately 30 feet across and six feet high, was constructed in five days with the help of dedicated students and other GMC community members. According to Beckman, the structure "represents the measures we all take to create a sense of security in the face of uncertain future events, be they natural disasters or otherwise."

Beckman learned from professor Van Hoesen that many measures Vermonters historically undertook to protect their land from erosion (such as fortifying river banks and clearing channels) actually increase the speed of the river during heavy rains and can result in greater flooding and more damage downstream. The irony inherent in this concept and how it signifies our interconnectedness with each other and our environment inspired Beckman to construct the boat façade.

Practically, the resulting piece reminds us of the value of reusing materials, and awakens us to our current degree of waste and carelessness. Metaphorically, it is a symbol of fragile optimism: learning from the past to forge new hope and strategies for the future, while acknowledging the potential fallacy of protective measures we take. In the end, the boat stands as a totem to a community's ability to work together and Green Mountain College's commitment to sustainable stewardship our planet.

In his general art practice, Beckman's work strikes a tone that is both somber and playful. He uses the visual language of industry and the ingredients of the built environment- coal, sand, iron ore-to explore the memory of a time when Americans were more intimately connected to the processes that constructed and sustained their material world. The resources we have found, exploited, and imagined as limitless stand within Beckman's work as core referents of our consumption. Through his work, Beckman seeks to understand the contradiction between "progress" (especially Western notions of growth and civilization) and impermanence: humanity's role in a larger ecological context.

Jake Beckman completed his MFA in sculpture with honors at the Rhode Island School of Design. He received his BA in art from Swarthmore College, attended the Studio Arts Center International in Florence, Italy and has also received The Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning teaching certificate from Brown University. Beckman has received an array of recognition for his work. He received a full fellowship residency at the Vermont Studio Center in 2010, and has an upcoming residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (2012). He has received the Trails and Arts Award from the American Trail Association for his piece Rotaflora. He was the recipient of the S.L.Y Herman Scholarship (Rhode Island School of Design) and the Dean's Award (Swarthmore College). Beckman's recent exhibitions include shows in Providence, Rhode Island and New York, New York.

The gallery exhibition and viewing the boat project are both free and open to the public. General gallery hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 12-5 p.m. and Saturday from 10-2 p.m., or by appointment. Please note that the gallery will be closed over Green Mountain College's winter break December 16-January 15. Please contact Kerrilee Knights, gallery coordinator, for more information.

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