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.