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.