SPOKE activates the transformative power of art to heal divisions, strengthen community, and drive social progress. We forge a common path of equity and civic engagement across Greater Boston through visual art, dance, poetry & spoken-word performance. Young people are essential contributors to all of our work. Creating together, we emerge with a deeper understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world we share.
Our vision is that one day, all individuals will feel included and engaged in strengthening their community. They will recognize that art is not just a commodity. Instead, they’ll recognize art as a guiding tool that frees them to express their voice and to participate in their community.
The Objectives of MWP are to:
World-renowned artist, Michael Dowling, founded Medicine Wheel Productions (MWP) as a nonprofit organization in 2000. Initially a focused painter, Dowling began shifting his work to public art installations in response to a call he felt from the community. Through this transition, he repeatedly experienced the phenomenology of art.
One such experience happened in the early years of the “Medicine Wheel” installation. Participants in the 24-hour vigil were invited to carry in stones and symbolically place them in the center of the room as a way to commemorate the AIDS epidemic and acknowledge the overarching sense of loss. Michael saw two women slowly pushing in a very large stone and walked up to them to see if they needed help. In response, one of the women said, “No! You don’t understand. Her son, my nephew passed away from AIDS. This is our burden to bear. We need to do this alone.” Their participation in the installation allowed them to grieve, but more importantly, heal and move forward.
Another experience unfolded in1996. Dowling began working with a group of 18 teens that called themselves “Southie Survivors” because they had lost so many friends to drug overdose and suicide. Under Dowling’s mentorship, they channeled their grief and anger into public artwork, creating a Celtic Cross Memorial on an abandoned lot called No Man’s Land, a site well known for its drug activity and violence. The impact of this project on the youth was profound—they were provided with a non-threatening platform to heal, express their grief, and in turn, become change agents in their neighborhood.
Today, MWP is a thriving arts organization that is transforming individuals and communities from the inside out.
SPOKE activates art to heal, transform communities, and drive social progress across Greater Boston. We work alongside artists to triage urgent public problems, from addiction and alcoholism to racial justice, HIV/AIDS, and climate change. We create public spaces that inspire and heal. Young people learn and grow as essential contributors to our work. Creating together, we reach a deeper understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world we share.
For the past 29 years, I have been building places for people to gather and to heal. In 1992, I was invited by the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) to create a ritual to honor A Day Without art. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I was about to find out. I went to the quarries in Quincy, where I had grown up and gathered large blocks stone to scatter throughout the vast space of the BCA Cyclorama. During the day I invited people to carry a stone to the center of the room, feel it’s weight and to build a cairn in the center of the room to mark the significance of the day. I noticed two women trying to lift a large piece of stone, probably weighing around 120 lbs. I offered to help and they politely declined. A young man, ringing a gong every 16 minutes to mark the rate of HIV infections in 1992 , also offered to help. Again the women declined. I offered a third time and one of the women turned to me and said ” You don’t get this do you? Her son, my nephew just died form AIDS. this is our weight.
I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I realized in this moment what I was called to do as an artist.
Founder and Artistic Director of Creative programs and Partnerships
Michael is known as one of the Commonwealth’s most innovative and courageous artists who produces visually stunning, ambitious public works of art that serve and inspire communities on many levels. His work stems from his heartfelt desire to beautify and make life better for all. Michael holds a BFA and MFA from Boston University, where he studied with Philip Guston and James Weeks.
Executive Director of Creative Strategies
L’Merchie Frazier, visual activist, public historian and artist, innovator, poet and holographer, is Director of Education and Interpretation for the Museum of African American History, Boston/Nantucket. Currently she is Director of Creative Engagement of the Transformative Action Project,/Violence Transformed in the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University. Her work highlights the reparative aesthetic approach to expand the historical narrative, diminishing erasure, responding to trauma, violence and crisis through artistic activities. Her work is based on authentic evidence, providing place-based education and interdisciplinary history pedagogy, programs and workshops, projects and lectures. She delivers and manages Faculty/ Teachers’ Institutes and its extension, the Cross Cultural Classroom, marketed to independent education entities, municipalities and corporations.
She has served the artistic community for over twenty years as an award winning national and international visual and performance artist and poet, in one life work “Save Me From My Amnesia”, with residencies in Brazil, Taiwan, Costa Rica, Africa, France, and Cuba. Her works mirror community. Her artworks are collected by the Smithsonian Institution, the White House, Museum of Arts and Design, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art. As a lecturer and workshop presenter, her audiences include youth and adults. She is a Boston Foundation Brother Thomas Fellow and Massachusetts Historical Society Fellow and is a member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts and has recently been appointed to the Massachusetts Arts Commission and was recently awarded for the first Museum Educator Award by the Massachusetts Council on Social Studies. Newly Executive Director of Creative Strategic Partnerships for SPOKE.
Director of Development
Susan is a passionate advocate of the arts. For over thirty years she has taught painting or literature and writing in settings as varied as Lehman College in the Bronx, The Boston Public Library, Pine Street Inn, The Boston Home and Medicine Wheel.
Her belief in the transformative power of the arts informs her approach to not only teaching, but to life. “Art transports us to untapped worlds. The practice of art changes lives,” says Krause. “I have experienced the joy of total immersion in creating; I have seen how people in tremendous pain, against all odds, enter a place that takes them away from their physical reality. “
Director of Advocacy and Public Art
Richie started working at MWP because of court-mandated community service hours. After showing his leadership skills and initiative, Richard moved his way up to serve in a full-time, administrative capacity. All of the youth employees look up to him as a peer role model. He has also been nominated for numerous awards for his youth advocacy work in the City of Boston.
Raymond Josue Rodriguez
Raymond J Rodriguez is a bilingual Afro-Latinx member of the LGBTQIA+ community with 15+ years of public health experience related to HIV/STI testing, peer support and case management, health education and navigation, event coordination/social media/outreach, recovery coaching and group facilitation. He is an advocate and ally actively engaged in the community outside of work, ranging from the Ryan White Council to the Latinx Advisory Group and EHE Steering Committee for the State of Massachusetts DPH, as well as coordinator for the Latinx/a/o/e LGBTQIAPK Digital Wellness Conference and Latinx/a/o/e Community Excellence Awards. He is extremely passionate about the work he do as an LGBTQ+ Services Coordinator for Framingham GLASS ( Gay, Lesbian, Adolescents, Social Services)at Program RISE a program of the Justice Resource Institute and serving LGBTQIA+ Youth of Color and other marginalize communities. Raymond has been living with HIV since 2015 and he is a proud member of the harm reduction recovery community.
Rob Cutler, Staff Humanitarian
Rob considers advocacy to be his life’s work. He regularly goes to the State House to advocate for those unable to speak for themselves. Since 2005, his important work has included mentoring youth who face challenges in their daily lives, meeting with them two-three times per week at MWP. Based on his own experiences and challenges, Rob is a model to these young people who accept him as one who understands pain, abuse and suffering; thus, he is able to provide the youth with support, insight, and inspiration.