About Us

MW Productions/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:

Drive Social Progress

• Transform Communities from the Inside Out

• Create Places that Inspire and Heal

• Amplify Youth Voices

Our History

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.

Mission and Vision

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.

Michael’s Vision

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.

Our Staff

 

Michael Dowling,
Artistic Director 
mdowling@mwproductions.org

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.

Gregory Liakos,
Interim Executive Director 

gliakos@mwproductions.org

Gregory Liakos brings to Medicine Wheel more than two decades of experience supporting artists, cultural institutions, and education. As Director of Communications and External Affairs for the Mass Cultural Council, he served as senior leader for New England’s leading public arts funder. He crafted and led communications campaigns that substantially expanded the influence and impact of the agency and its work, doubling annual state cultural funding with a groundbreaking Power of Culture brand. Liakos led communications and advocacy for the Mass Cultural Facilities Fund, a national model capital program for nonprofit cultural institutions, and worked closely with MASSCreative and the Massachusetts Legislature to ensure arts and culture had a place in key state policy initiatives.

He co-authored the agency’s first plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He also served on the Board of Mass Humanities. In 2019 the Mass Artists Leaders Coalition awarded him a “Champion of Artists” Award for his advocacy. Earlier he led public relations for the expansion and transformation of the Peabody Essex Museum, which completed a complex, $125 million project that generated strong support from a range of audiences, redefining PEM for a global, 21st-century public. A strong civic and public education advocate, Mr. Liakos is also a member of the Wakefield School Committee, and serves on the Board of Arts/Learning, an arts education advocacy network.

Susan Krause,
Director of Development

skrause@mwproductions.org 

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. “

Richie Dinsmore,
Director of Advocacy and Public Art

rdinsmore@mwproductions.org

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.

 
 

Shardezya Clarke,
Daniel Morrison Fellow  

My name is Shardezya Clarke but my good friends and family call me star, my nickname of course. I grew up in the city of Boston, Ma and growing up in the city you have to find your purpose in your life and at Medicine Wheel I’m constantly reminded of my purpose. I graduated from the highschool Community Academy Of Science and Health and got the opportunity to be the first person in my family to go off to college. Currently, I attend Framingham State University with a Criminology major and an English minor and I plan on becoming either a social worker or an advocate at a mental health facility.

Throughout, My years in highschool I was a part of the student government board and also attended a lot of community service with the Build On organization. I have always been the student that teachers counted on regarding my leadership in the classroom and my achievement within each of my assignments. Now that I’m in college I carry on those same qualities and I continue to spread my positivity and peace within the university. I would love to mention, I’m a creator and rising author who just finished my first book and with that I would like to share that I will be creating a new book every year. At Medicine Wheel, I’m able to have a voice in this organization and with our power team I’m able to bring my voice into the center of the change boston needs.

I’m able to create new ideas that will continue to help the organization have a variety of new opportunities for not only youth but also underground artists of all kinds. As long as I have my team’s love and support I will be able to accomplish my biggest dreams and goals on making a change within artists and injustice I encounter. With every variety of ideas Micheal continues to back me up on each one and he has been a huge aspect in my growth within myself and at Medicine Wheel.

Ryan Mahoney,
Cinematographer

Ryan is a 34 year old cinematographer originally from Hampden, MA. Ryan’s passion for production started at the young age of 13 when his father bought him his first camera and computer to film himself and his friends skating. His unquenchable thirst for video production eventually became his career.

Ryan’s formal production education started when he attended STCC in 2005 where he honed his television studio production and post production skills. After completing his degree at STCC Ryan was accepted to the B.F.A film production program in 2008 at Emerson college. During his time there he focused his efforts on directing, producing and writing. Through his hard work he was awarded various grants such as the FotoKem student filmmaker grant to produce his B.F.A in 2011.

After college Ryan’s artistic endeavors switched to commercial and documentary video production. He has produced content for clients such as the YMCA, Multicultural AIDS Coalition, Federation for Children with Special Needs, and Facing History and Ourselves to name a few. Ryan’s vision as a cinematographer is simple – “To capture people’s stories in an impactful and compelling way to drive change.”

Deborah Kamy Hull
Teaching Artist

dkhull@mwproductions.org

I am an abstract painter. I paint non-objectively on a variety of flat surfaces including paper and distressed drop cloths that were part of my husband’s house painting business. My vocabulary is basic geometric shapes – squares, circles, triangles, and diamonds. I cut stencils from wood, cardboard, and paper and apply the paint in patterns and layers. The conversation is about repetition, movement, and paths of color. In some paintings there is sewing – a piecing together of fragments, a patching of a rip, or an additional shape. I work small, medium, and large.

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.