South Boston Online writer Rick Winterson is a member of the Medicine Wheel board.
Back in 1991, the basic aim/goal/mission/philosophy/whatever of Medicine Wheel Productions occurred to Michael Dowling, Medicine Wheel’s founder, artistic director, and artist in his own right. Stated simply, Michael realized the connection between the community and its art. Medicine Wheel’s basic idea is stated in the clause, “Building Community Through Art.”
Well, 2016 equals 1991 plus 25 years. Medicine Wheel Production is celebrating its silver anniversary this year. Big plans and great celebrations will make this a memorable anniversary year. There are a number of events planned, but three stand out in particular. The first is a Medicine Wheel fundraiser called “Turning the Wheel” on Thursday, June 16, as spring comes to an end. Then, late in August, the “I Have a Dream” observance takes place. On Dec. 1, Medicine Wheel Productions will hold its annual World AIDS Day Remembrance. (Look here for the announcements about these three, as well as the many other Medicine Wheel activities during 2016.) Mark McGonagle, chair of the Medicine Wheel board, has organized a hard-working board of community-spirited people, who are determined to make Medicine Wheel’s 25th year one to remember.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Any great institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” That could be said of Michael Dowling and Medicine Wheel Productions. Four hundred years ago, Christopher Wren, the famous British architect, was sarcastically asked, “But where are the monuments built in your honor?” He replied, “If you would see my monuments, just look around you.” Wren was of course referring to the magnificent buildings in London he had designed and built.
Please take a look at the photos accompanying this article. In a small way, they reflect what Michael Dowling has accomplished in and around South Boston. They show current Medicine Wheel events, backed up with years of work by Michael and the folks at Medicine Wheel Productions. Drop in at the Medicine Wheel studio at 110 K St., sometime. Recently, they held a “Hand in Hand” event, where Boston police officers bond with young Medicine Wheel members by casting their hands together in plaster. Look for those hands, an example of “building community through art.”
Visit the current exhibition at Medicine Wheel’s Spoke Gallery, entitled “On the Line” by Curator Kathy Bitetti. It brings Dorchester artists to Spoke Gallery, one of the busiest small galleries in South Boston’s burgeoning fine arts scene, another example of “building community through art.”
Put on your boots and warm coat. Then take a walk up to No Man’s Land behind South Boston’s Excel High School on the east end of Thomas Park, where a gate through to the Dorchester Heights Monument has just been cut. Twenty years ago, Michael and a group of young users began creating a park from the overgrown crescent of ground called “No Man’s Land,” to commemorate the rash of teen suicides in the mid-90s. It’s now a beautiful small park, where the engraved brick road goes ever on – especially when the leaves come out in spring, and is another way the organization is “building community through art.”