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W.H.E.E.L. Gallery gives voice to Milwaukee men with spinal cord injuries due to gun violence

A new community-based research project explores how art and discussion can support young men of color who have a spinal cord injury, specifically as a result of gun violence.

Listen to the audio story below to hear from Project Manager Moriah Iverson and Michael Wolfe, one of the project participants.

The project gathered five individuals for weekly programming consisting of open discussions and physical and arts activities.

Iverson collaborated with a number of organizations like the Medical College of Wisconsin and Froedtert Hospital to design this research project. She worked with True Skool and Independence First to provide the programming and recruit participants. With emphasis on the arts component of the project, Iverson also brought in a guest artist by the name of Paul Kjelland to lead the eight weeks of art activities.

“There are a lot of studies showing that when you combine art with different types of health interventions, the health interventions go much better,” said Iverson. “People become much more invested in their narratives.

Wolfe – one of the five participants – entered the program with a lack of trust in the healthcare research system. By the end of it, he committed himself to helping with more research. Iverson shared exciting news proving just how much the group bonded over through the course of the project.

“Four of the participants who worked with us during this project have actually signed onto the research team to be co-researchers,” said Iverson, referring to future research projects currently in the works.


The artwork created by the young men during this project will be celebrated on April 28 with the W.H.E.E.L. Gallery.

W.H.E.E.L. stands for “We Heal Each and Every Life.”

The gathering will be held at Independence First from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The men will also participate in an open panel discussion about their personal experiences, giving them the opportunity to have ownership of their narrative.

Register for the free event here.