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UMPI to host brain art event in honor of Brain Awareness Week

– Art and science will come together at the University of Maine at Presque Isle when two professors host an event in honor of internationally celebrated Brain Awareness Week. “North of Ordinary Neuro-Art Night” will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16 in the Pullen Art Room.

Biology professor Dr. Rachael Hannah and Art professor Renee Felini are teaming up to offer a fun art project that also will teach participants about brain function and neuroscience. Felini will be creating brain molds out of silicon rubber. Plaster brains will be produced from the molds that participants will be able to paint under Felini’s guidance. Hannah will offer a 15-minute presentation about the human brain, showing how brains are mapped, and then participants will use that information and their imagination to create their brain art.

Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is the global campaign to increase public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research, according to the official BAW website. During BAW, campaign partners organize creative and innovative activities in their communities to educate and excite people of all ages about the brain and brain research. Founded and coordinated by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and European Dana Alliance for the Brain, BAW’s 16th annual celebration will take place from March 14-20, 2011.

North of Ordinary Neuro-Art Night is an official BAW event. Hannah, who earned her Ph.D. in Anatomy and Neurobiology from the University of Vermont in 2010, has visited schools in Vermont to talk about brain activity during past BAW celebrations. She said she wanted to do a BAW event in northern Maine, and wanted to have the event include an art project. Hannah approached Felini with her desire to hold an event, and the two “brain”stormed their neuro-art night.

“Carving a brain out of plaster to create a mold from it has been a fun experience,” Felini said. “Rachael has taught me a lot about the construction of the brain, which I have tried to reflect in the model. I hope that participants will not only learn about the mapping of the brain, but also feel inspired during the event to creatively express the knowledge they have acquired.”

The completed art will be put on display in the Mark and Emily Turner Memorial Library in time for the First Friday Art Walk to be held on April 1.

Hannah believes that approaching neuroscience from an artistic point of view will help people to gain a greater appreciation for the subject and an increased willingness to learn more.

“Neuroscience is a complicated subject and there’s a lot of new vocabulary, so if you start demystifying the words, then that helps. Then it’s not as scary,” Hannah said.

North of Ordinary Neuro-Art Night will take place at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16 in the Pullen Art Room, which is located on the third floor of Pullen Hall. The event is open to campus and community members 16 and older; or younger if supervised by a parent. Pamphlets and other materials that provide fun information and activities about the brain and brain function will be available at the event. For more information, contact Hannah at