‘Use Your Brain’ student art exhibit open to public at BU’s Curve Gallery

January 23, 2020

Interpretations of brains with dementia line the wall of a student art exhibit at BU, with instructor Sharran Mullins' visible at far right.

A student art exhibition at Brandon University is taking a thought-provoking look at dementia, by focusing on interpretations of the brain.

“Use Your Brain” will be on display for the next few weeks in the Tommy McLeod Curve Gallery, on the second floor of the John E. Robbins Library at BU. It was a class project for third-year psychiatric nursing students who are learning about elder care.

“This interactive, dementia-friendly project included people with dementia and their care-partners in our classroom,” said Assistant Professor Sharran Mullins, who noted that the idea was inspired by a similar project done by the Baycrest Foundation in Toronto. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for community engagement for the students so they could learn from and with, people living with a diagnosis of dementia in the community.”

Mullins invited people with a diagnosis and a care-partner or support person to participate in the project, which involved decorating MDF brains using arts and craft supplies.  The brains are now being put to “use” through presentations and displays that sparking conversations about brain health in Brandon University and in the wider community.

“This has been a valuable experience for our students as well as community participants and I expect it will form the basis for an ongoing, fruitful partnership between Brandon University and the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba,” Mullins said.

For her own brain art project, Mullins added a plethora of flowers and bees busily buzzing around the back of the brain, contrasted with fewer flowers and bees in the frontal-temporal lobe of the brain. This signifies the changes in the brain of a person with dementia with regard to executive functioning such as problem solving, decision-making, and critical thinking.

“When my Mom had dementia, people so frequently asked me, ‘Does she still know you?’ that I began to wonder if the greater tragedy was not that she no longer knew me, but that she no longer knew herself,” Mullins said. “The flowers that are outside of the brain shape represent the experience of losing my Mom, one piece of her at a time, as she gradually slipped away from us.”

All are welcome to view the brains that are on display at any time during regular library hours.

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