About the Beast

The Beast: Herd Mentality is a collaboratively built temporary sculpture in the form of a bull, a symbol of sacrifice in many cultures, that will serve as a community and communal art space and a multidisciplinary platform for cultural activities. As an art space, this sculpture/performance pavilion will serve as a platform for community engagement and community-generated programs and events.

The Beast was conceived and is being built by Chicago artist John Preus using recycled, decommissioned boats donated by the Essex Shipbuilding Museum and North Shore residents. Montserrat students and community members are assisting in the building of the structure and will have numerous opportunities to interact with the artist throughout his process.  The installation will be on view in Montserrat College of Art Gallery, 23 Essex St., from Feb. 15-March 30. A public opening reception will be held Thursday, Feb, 15 from 5-8 pm.

Inside the belly of The Beast, the college will hold a wide range of events, including concerts, slide talks, and presentations. In addition, the community is invited to propose programs of their own, from m

eetings and readings to performances and classes. In this time of political divisiveness and social anxiety, Preuss’s Beast will provide a free, public space that encourages people to gather and to find common ground across differing ideologies and viewpoints.

Artist John Preus will be building The Beast in Montserrat Gallery through Feb. 14. You can watch the progress via our live stream of the process or stop in and meet the artist during most business hours.

The installation is being supported in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the exhibition is being co-curated by Michele L’Heureux and Leonie Bradbury.

About John Preus

The son of Norwegian Lutheran pastors going back sux generations, John Preus (rhymes with choice – b. 1971) spent his early years running barefoot under a cathedral of trees in Makumira, Tanzania, then grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and northern Wisconsin.  Preus currently works as an artist, builder, fabricator, amateur writer, musician, and collaborator.

He founded Dilettante Studios in 2010 which designs and builds cabinets, furniture, and residential and commercial spaces, relying almost exclusively on second-hand materials.  He co-founded the art group Material Exchange in 2005, and until 2010 collaborated with co-founder Sara Black.  He worked with Theaster Gates as the Creative Director of the Rebuild Foundation and as the lead fabricator in his studio, leaving in 2012 to focus on his own work.  In 2012 Preus led a crew of builders from Chicago, Sweden, Egypt and Germany to rehab the vacant Huguenot House in Kassel, Germany for Theaster Gates’ Documenta 13 piece, 12 Ballads for Huguenot House.  Preus also co-founded SHOP with artist and curator, Laura Shaeffer.

Preus holds an MFA from the University of Chicago (2005).  He studied at La Cipressaia in northern Italy with art gurus Rose Shakinovsky and Claire Gavronsky in 1992, 1994, and 1996 and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002.  He has roughly 16 years of building and designing experience, which includes a two-year apprenticeship with award-winning hand-tool master, John Nesset, and some years working in cabinet shops and on carpentry crews.  

Exhibitions of his work include the Huguenot House, Kassel, Germany during dOCUMENTA 13, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Heilbronn Kunstverein-Germany, the Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft, the Betty Rhymer Gallery, the Hyde Park Art Center, the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago, the Devos Museum of Art in Marquette, Michigan, EXPO Chicago.  Preus was the 2013-2014 Jackman-Goldwasser fellow at the Hyde Park Art Center, and received the first place MAKER grant and the Efroymson Fellowship in 2014.