Power of Culture Blog
NEFA’s Creative Playground for LCCs & Cultural Districts
CreativeGround: Connect with Creative New England
How Dr. “The Machine” Jesse Green sculpts confidence in young minds
Over the last two years, more than 100 Local Cultural Councils (LCCs) have supported Dr. “The Machine” Jesse Green’s project. Hear from the Master Sculptor how his message inspires young people to follow their dreams.
CHAINSAWS, CHEESEBURGERS AND ROCK N’ ROLL. You may think these things have nothing in common but 46-year-old Medway, MA artist, Dr. “The Machine” Jesse Green has sculpted (and grilled) those key ingredients into the greatest motivational show in town. I booked a consultation with the good doctor himself to learn about his burger prescriptions, art school pedigree, and what kids across the state love about his message.
You’re a world-renowned Master Chainsaw Sculptor, a great speaker, you have an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Keene State College, and you’re in a cover band. What is your first memory of getting involved with arts and culture?
Thanks so much! Well, chainsaw sculpting was born out of a love of cartooning. I was a cartoonist from ages 5-21 and originally went to art school at UMass Dartmouth as an illustration major. I lost my patience for 2D, [changed my major] to sculpture instead, and fell head-over-heels with chainsaw sculpting, which is a fun story…
We love fun stories at Mass Cultural Council. You’re a cartoonist, draw the picture for us.
It was a beautiful fall day in 1997, and I [went for] a drive for the heck of it when I came upon a tree that the Town of Dartmouth had cut down and left by the side of the road. It was cut in big, fat, juicy, delicious 4-inch-long sections. Impulsively, I pulled over and managed to grab two of them. It was the sappiest, messiest decision of my whole life but would soon prove well worth it!
What happened next?
I went straight to the store and bought my very first chainsaw.
Had you ever used a chainsaw before?
NEVER used one before, didn’t know if I was going to kill myself…Thankfully I didn’t! And it was love at first cut. This was finally something I really FELT like ‘Ooo, I can see myself doing this: Contributing BIG, GIANT, lasting art to the world!’ Meanwhile, being in that art school environment helped reinforce just how incredibly reliant the world has always been on art.
Speaking of being reliant on art, the pandemic changed the world and art was needed more than ever. How did COVID-19 impact you?
COVID-19 impacted me 100%. It’s the whole reason I even decided to look into the grants program again in the first place. Everything I had planned for the whole year was cancelled. As a professional performing artist, I was suddenly out of work. At the same time, I kept hearing about how the mental toll on kids during the pandemic was so immense. It still is. I have a 5th grader myself. I get it. More than ever, [kids] NEED strong messages of hope, positivity, and encouragement.
How did you hear about Mass Cultural Council and the Local Cultural Council (LCC) Program?
I originally found Mass Cultural Council and the LCC Program back [around] 2009. I live-carved life-size public sculptures for communities at town events that became permanent fixtures in the towns. When COVID hit, I learned that the application process had moved online, (thank you) which is what spurred me to apply again. In 2021, CHAINSAWS, CHEESEBURGERS AND ROCK N’ ROLL received grants from a staggering 109 LCCs!!! To say I was shocked would be a drastic understatement but… WOW! What an amazing chance to try and make a difference for kids!
That’s an amazing show of LCC support. Can you describe CHAINSAWS, CHEESEBURGERS AND ROCK N’ ROLL? Are cheeseburgers and chainsaws involved?
Ha! Yes, chainsaws and cheeseburgers are definitely involved! AND throwing axes AND rock n’ roll (and more…) But only in slide form, sorry. It’s a very safe show. The website is ChainsawsCheeseburgersAndRockNRoll.com and the project can be described best as an extremely unique, highly-acclaimed, fun, funny, super-fast-paced, live multimedia motivational show.
And what do your patients have to say about your practice?
As the re-openings began to happen, I was honored over and over again to be the first in-person assemblies that most of the schools had since before COVID began. Because of all that incredible faith and support from those LCCs – at the end of December – I’ll have successfully reached approximately 25,000 extremely enthusiastic students from grades 2-12 all over the state! That’s powerful, I think. The schools all appreciated it immensely and it’s all thanks to Mass Cultural Council and all those LCCs. Just take a quick look at my Facebook or Instagram and you can see for yourself how well it all went over.
What does art mean to you?
Art TELLS OUR STORY. It’s what makes us aware of [the] many cultures, practices, and periods our world has gone through. Not to mention it’s our complete and total salvation on a daily basis, am I right? Art – is – LIFE. Life is Art. Art is us. I [like to think that] I’ve helped to advance chainsaw sculpture itself as a now far more recognized, much more respected medium. Because let me tell you, A LOT of people didn’t feel like it could be. In 2012 when my National Geographic TV series first premiered in prime time, chainsaw artists were a VERY rare breed.
Now one of my very favorite things to do in the world is SHOWING our youth what can be done even when others think it can’t. Physically going into schools and SHOWING THEM that there is in fact room enough – and a definite need for – everyone to do EXACTLY what they know in their hearts they can contribute. That’s why I love what I do.
In one of your videos, you say the power of the arts can make a huge contribution to society. How do you manifest the power of culture? How do you see it manifest in your community and the people you serve?
Manifestation is a HUGE part of the message I try to deliver THROUGH various art forms used throughout the show. It’s the idea that by connecting to – and embracing – one’s true self, one can make the greatest possible contributions to culture (and therefore society) as possible. Simply put – if you’re actively chasing your dreams, chances are you’ll be a MUCH, MUCH happier, more positive, more productive member of society.
I’ve traveled the bulk of the country and ultimately, I think it’s art that truly distinguishes each area. Unfortunately, other states don’t typically put the same emphasis on the arts the way that Massachusetts thankfully does. So, through Mass Cultural Council and Local Cultural Councils, artists are ABLE to make contributions to their local cultures! It’s crucial stuff but often grossly undervalued. That’s why I feel so incredibly lucky and proud to have been able to help perpetuate the process to such a degree over the last two years. I look forward to continuing to do so!
Dr. “The Machine” Jesse Green’s project, CHAINSAWS, CHEESEBURGERS AND ROCK N’ ROLL, received FY21 LCC grants from:
Acushnet, Agawam, Ashby, Ashland, Attleboro, Auburn, Barre, Bellingham, Beverly, Blackstone, Blandford, Boylston, Bridgewater, Brimfield, Brockton, Buckland, Burlington, Canton, Charlton, Chatham, Chelmsford, Chicopee, Clinton, Douglas, Dracut, Dudley, Dunstable, Duxbury, East Bridgewater, East Longmeadow, Essex, Everett, Fall River, Franklin, Freetown, Gardner, Grafton, Groveland, Halifax, Hardwick-New Braintree, Hatfield, Haverhill, Holbrook, Holland, Holliston, Hopedale, Hubbardston, Lakeville, Lawrence, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Lunenberg, Lynnfield, Malden, Manchester, Mansfield, Marblehead, Medway, Mendon, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleborough, Middleton, Milford, Millis, Needham, Newbury, Newburyport, Northborough, Northbridge, Northern Berkshire, North Andover, North Brookfield, North Easton, Norton, Orange, Palmer, Paxton, Petersham, Plymouth, Plympton, Raynham, Reading, Rockland, Rowley, Sandisfield, Saugus, Sharon, Shrewsbury, Somerset, Southampton, Springfield, Swampscott, Swansea, Templeton, Tewksbury, Tolland, Topsfield, Townsend, Upton, Uxbridge, Webster, West Bridgewater, West Springfield, Westborough, Wilmington, Winchendon, Winthrop, and Woburn.
It received FY22 LCC grants from:
Agawam, Amesbury, Athol, Burlington, Dudley, Fall River, Freetown, Grafton, Milford, North Andover, Norton, Plympton, Swansea, and Westford.