YouthSpeak Summer Program Adapted to Continue During the Academic Year

Screen Shot 2021-09-17 at 2.27.40 PMThis summer SPOKE launched YouthSpeak, a new initiative that opens digital space for young people in Boston public housing to share their stories about their lives and their communities and earn money in the process.

With funding from the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), SPOKE partnered with a talented team of creative entrepreneurs from TrendStream Entertainment who are working with youth in neighborhoods across Boston to create poignant personal narratives through poetry and spoken word performance, music, dance, and video. Young people earn $13.50 an hour for their work.

“I’ve been so impressed and inspired by the work of the young people we’ve had the privilege of working alongside,” says Dakohai Matityahu, a TrendStream spoken word artist who’s also serving as YouthSpeak Project Manager. “Medicine Wheel (SPOKE’s predecessor) helped me find my creative voice as a teen. Now in my role as a teacher I can help create spaces where a new generation is seen, heard, and valued for the gifts they bring.”

SPOKE is still actively recruiting youth living in public housing to enroll in YouthSpeak, now a fall afterschool program. To learn more or register go here.

What began as a youth employment opportunity for 2021 has been transformed into an after-school program for the 2021-2022 school year, with programming focused on sharing the voices of young people living in public housing in Boston. Over the course of seven weeks under the guidance of ten skilled artists, youth aged 15 to 18 use digital storytelling to portray their stories. YouthSpeak was founded based on SPOKE’s long history of activating art and story to help young people discover their authentic voice and amplify it in their communities.

YouthSpeak’s curriculum includes 10-15 classroom hours and 5 fieldwork hours, with 50-100 students under the direction of our cohort of creatives working in a range of artistic disciplines. The youth are presented with an array of digital storytelling options, encompassing video, photo essays, spoken word, music, or a hybrid/multimedia. Their individual experiences with digital media will also inform their work, employing it in conjunction with newly learned skills to create art that reflects themselves, their families, and their communities. All classes are held virtually in accordance with protocols from the CDC and the City of Boston.

This program was made possible thanks to the City of Boston and the Boston Housing Authority’s generous support, also as a part of SPOKE’s longer-term partnership with the BHA. This important partnership is manifested in the project New Art in Old Colony, a creative placemaking initiative taking place alongside the redevelopment of South Boston’s Old Colony neighborhood led by Beacon Communities Inc. In April 2021, SPOKE announced this project with the intention to activate Old Colony with community-driven public art over the next two years, utilizing help from two exceptional Latinx artists Allison Maria Rodriguez and Franklin Marval.

No Man’s Land Thank You

Thank you to everyone that came out to the No Man’s Land 25th Anniversary Commemoration on August 25th. We were so proud to welcome many various members of the South Boston community, some longstanding supporters of Medicine Wheel Productions/SPOKE and No Man’s Land: Longtime collaborators the National Park Service, whose Boston Superintendent, Michael Creasy, joined us; and newer partners such as local South Boston business In Good Co. Shop.

We’re also grateful to Boston City Councilor Ed Flynn and Massachusetts State Representative David Biele for joining us. Rep. Biele kindly shared a proclamation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives acknowledging our history of community building at No Man’s Land (photo below of Michael holding it up for the audience).

Founder & Artistic Director Michael Dowling unveils two scrolls honoring our South Boston brothers and sisters lost to addiction.

Founder & Artistic Director Michael Dowling unveils two scrolls honoring our South Boston brothers and sisters lost to addiction.

Michael sharing a proclamation from the Mass House of Representatives shared by State Rep. David Biele.

Michael sharing a proclamation from the Mass House of Representatives shared by State Rep. David Biele.

Many members of the community attended the No Man’s Land celebration to visit the commemorative bricks they’ve purchased to honor loved ones that they’ve lost along the way. A special thank you to WS Development, for underwriting the costs for this event. Thanks also to our Board Chair, Dr. Rohit Chandra, and members Donna Brown, Keith Marion, and Rick Winterson for their generous contributions and attendance.

As is the tradition at our annual No Man’s Land event, a King and Queen of the Hill were honored. The 2021 Queen of the Hill was Mercy Robinson, the Executive Director of South Boston En Accion, one of our local South Boston community partners (pictured below with Michael and Greg). The evening also featured powerful performances from Dakohai Matityahu, Oliver Burns, and Charles Murrell III, all of whom are teaching artists in SPOKE’s recently launched YouthSpeak program (also pictured below).

AfriClassical composer and teaching artist Charles Murrell III performing.

AfriClassical composer and teaching artist Charles Murrell III performing.

Queen of the Hill Mercy Robinson, Executive Director of S. Boston En Accion, with Michael & Greg.

Queen of the Hill Mercy Robinson, Executive Director of S. Boston En Accion, with Michael & Greg.

Three of our YouthSpeak teaching artists who joined us to honor No Man's Land: (from left to right are Charles, Dakohai (seated), and Oliver)

Three of our YouthSpeak teaching artists who joined us to honor No Man’s Land: (from left to right are Charles, Dakohai (seated), and Oliver)

“This was a magical night of art, reflection, and fellowship,” said Interim Executive Director Greg Liakos. “Thank you to all who contributed to making it a success.”

An additional ‘thank you’ to South Boston Online for this beautiful summary of our event. Our resilient South Boston community is the reason why we do our work, which makes this article all the more special.

Medicine Wheel/SPOKE still seeks additional philanthropic support for the ongoing work necessary to maintain No Man’s Land as a public park and continue our community programming there. Please consider a contribution today.

Donate to No Man's Land at https://givebutter.com/zWbvcx

Donate to No Man’s Land at https://givebutter.com/zWbvcx

Photos courtesy of Ramón Galván

No Man’s Land 25th Anniversary Event

Help Us Honor 25 Years at No Man’s Land

Join us for August 25 Celebration

On Wednesday, August 25 SPOKE (formerly Medicine Wheel Productions) honors its 25th anniversary at No Man’s Land, a public park and sculpture garden in South Boston’s Dorchester Heights neighborhood, with a community event beginning at 6 pm.

Screen Shot 2021-08-18 at 5.07.56 PM

Register for this special event here. 

Respond to our Facebook event here.

FINAL NML flier

We’ll unveil our new public art project, a series of mosaics marking the 12 Steps of Recovery, installed along one of No Man’s Land’s stone staircases. Young people working to overcome addiction at the Gavin Foundation’s Cushing House, and the recovery-focused Ostiguy High School, have worked all summer with SPOKE artists to design and install these mosaics and are helping to organize the commemoration.

 The event will honor the extraordinary 25-year history of No Man’s Land and all those who have contributed to its growth and conservation, and those we have lost along the way. We’ll thank our partners at the National Park Service (NPS), the City of Boston, and the Dorchester Heights neighborhood. SPOKE will use this gathering to publicly announce the signing of a memorandum of agreement to maintain and improve the space with NPS, which operates the adjacent Dorchester Heights National Historic Site.

Founder and Artistic Director Michael Dowling in performance with Boston Youth at No Man's Land in 2009

Founder and Artistic Director Michael Dowling in performance with Boston Youth at No Man’s Land in 2009

The gathering will highlight the need for ongoing support to conserve this space and support public programming there that meets community needs.

WS Development has generously awarded a grant to SPOKE to partially underwrite the costs of this event. SPOKE seeks additional philanthropic support for the commemoration and the ongoing work to maintain this space for this public.

 Help us support No Man’s Land. 

Mosaic of the 1st of 12 Steps of Recovery, reading "We admitted we were powerless over substances—that our lives had become unmanageable."

Mosaic of the 1st of 12 Steps of Recovery, reading “We admitted we were powerless over substances—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

About No Man’s Land
In the summer of 1996 the strip of land behind South Boston High School was rampant with substance abuse and violent clashes, the legacies of poverty, racial segregation, and busing. Michael Dowling, SPOKE Founder & Artistic Director, brought together artists, neighbors, activists, and young people, to reimagine and revitalize the space with a series of art installations, performances, and public programs. Today No Man’s Land is a welcoming, active public gathering place of beauty, serenity, and creative expression.

 

Art, Climate, and Boston – WeSpoke Gallery Talk July 28th

On Wednesday, July 28th, SPOKE will host its second WeSPOKE Gallery Talk “Art, Climate, and Boston.” This timely discussion with Allison Maria Rodriguez, Franklin Marval, and Carolina Aragón, will explore how and why these artists have put climate change at the center of their work here in Boston and beyond. Donna Brown, Executive Director of South Boston Neighborhood Development Corporation & SPOKE Board member, will moderate the panel.

This discussion coincides with Allison Maria Rodriguez’s current show at the new SPOKE Gallery “Once in a Lifetime,” the latest in a series of solo shows entitled Layered Time. Curated by Kathleen Bitteti, Layered Time features Boston artists working in a range of media exploring themes of time and its passage. Rodriguez and Marval are also working with SPOKE on the project “New Art in Old Colony,” a creative placemaking initiative in South Boston’s Old Colony neighborhood.

Rodriguez, Allison Maria, video still from the project Once in a Lifetime , video installation, 2021

Rodriguez’s new video installation draws directly from her time volunteering in Costa Rica, the title inspired by the jarring, unique experience of witnessing an endangered juvenile blue whale becoming washed up on the shore of the Playa Cabuyal beach. The work, according to Rodriguez is, “both a memorial to and a witnessing of this particular whale, as well as a summoning within the viewer of a sense of the presence of interconnection. . . Multiple biologists stated that to see a blue whale this close is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. The title of this project comes from the tension I experience in this phrase.” Rodriguez provided further context for this experience at her July 14 gallery opening discussion. Marval says he’s driven by the question, “how can I contribute to make a small change” through his colorful, emotionally resonant civic art projects.

The panel discussion also coincides with ”FutureSHORELINE,” Carolina Aragón’s temporary art installation that illustrates projected flooding in Boston due to sea level rise. The installation uses visual art to raise awareness and inspire urgency in Boston residents when considering the impending impact of climate change.

Courtesy of www.carolinaaragon.com/

Courtesy of www.carolinaaragon.com/ Photo credit: Matt Conti

 

The WeSPOKE Gallery Talk series began in May exploring artist Amanda Shea’s video BODY, where a panel of black artists and creators engaged in a deeper conversation around their journey with their own body and how it shaped their livelihood. This ongoing series of gallery talks addresses the role of the artist in timely topics such as climate change, racial reconciliation, and addiction and recovery, building on SPOKE’s nearly 30 years of activating art to triage critical community needs.

“Art, Climate, and Boston” will take place in the SPOKE Gallery at 840 Summer Street in South Boston from 6:30-7:30 pm.

Register on Zoom for this hybrid in-person and virtual event here.

 

“New Art in Old Colony” workshop 2 with Franklin Marval and Allison Maria Rodriguez

Title: “New Art in Old Colony” workshop 2 with Franklin Marval and Allison Maria Rodriguez
Link out: Click here
Description: SPOKE and its South Boston partners invite you to be part of New Art in Old Colony, an initiative to create public art for the Old Colony neighborhood as part of its next phase of redevelopment.

SPOKE commissioned Boston artists Allison Maria Rodriguez and Franklin Marval to lead a series of workshops with Old Colony residents at the Tierney Learning Center to explore how works of public art can best reflect their vision, ideas, concerns, and hopes for the neighborhood.

Workshops will take place Thursday, July 29 and Thursday, August 5th, both from 6-7:30 pm. To register, go here: https://forms.gle/q3D6KcDpyurCP3cn9

SPOKE is a nonprofit organization that works to activate art to heal, transform community, and drive social progress. The organization (formerly Medicine Wheel) will make its future home in Old Colony by converting the former Boston Housing Authority headquarters building into a public arts center and the hub of a cultural campus that will serve residents of Old Colony and visitors from across Greater Boston.

We are grateful to co-host New Art in Old Colony with South Boston En Accion, Tierney Learning Center, and the Old Colony Task Force. This project is possible through the generous support of the BHA, Beacon Communities, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Start Time: 6:00
Date: 2021-08-05