All Our Brains Exhibition


catalyst poster design final v2 plain whiteAll Our Brains Exhibition.

From 16th February – 2nd March at The Art House FREE ENTRY

Sheffield Hallam’s 2016 Festival of Creativity ‘Catalyst’ inspired a project which aims to enable people explore dementia through art and creative means.  The ‘All Our Brains’ exhibition initially came together during the festival’s Dementia Symposium and was previewed at the Cantor Building on Arundel Street. Lee Pearce (curator of the exhibition) explains:

‘It’s aim then was to bring together a wide spectrum of people – carers, ex carers, students, those with dementia, older people, those with mental health issues, community workers, children, professional artists, students, lecturers, The NHS, Alzheimer’s Research UK and care homes – to interpret all things dementia. Its end result was a collection of pieces of work by real people who had stories to tell about their experiences or the experiences of those around them about dementia’.

Lee and his brother Andrew, had seen first-hand the impact of dementia when they had cared for their mum, who had a form of the disease called Frontal Temporal Lobe Dementia. As well as the effects on themselves, they had watched their father become not only a father and a husband but also carer. You can watch some of Lee’s films exploring these stories here.

In the exhibition, you can explore a vinyl timeline representing their personal journey of diagnosis and understanding.

The Journey.

That journey was thirteen years long and involved TV and radio appearances, setting up The Valerie Foundation (named after their mum) and, as demonstrated by this exhibition, an ongoing attempt to explore dementia in a creative and accessible way.

And although some of the pieces on show are about Lee and Andrew’s family, All Our Brains aims to be an exhibition where anyone affected by dementia can document and record their own journey – one unique for them but that may offer insight or information for others. The exhibition’s power lies in the stories of people just like us documenting what dementia is and how it affects the lives of those affected by it.

The original exhibition contained work from across the UK but, being based in Sheffield, the majority of the pieces included are local reflections; people of the city stepping forward to continue (and record) their lives when dementia appears.

As Lee says “The exhibition is a new way at looking at dementia and the challenges around it. There is no right or wrong way to respond to it, no right or wrong questions. Everyone has their own different ways to manage how they respond to this disease. And because of that the exhibition is different to what you might expect – it’s tender, fragile, touching, emotional, comforting, surprising and everything in-between. It’s not just asking you to look at a piece of art – it’s asking you to engage.

“Many of the exhibitors wouldn’t necessarily see themselves as artists but what their work gives us are powerful doorways into empathy, support and conversations about the disease. These are powerful stories and they need to be seen and be heard.”

The Valerie Foundation – supported by Heeley City Farm – runs a frontal lobe support carers group and some of the work in the exhibition is by them. It’s as real and tangible an insight as you’ll get into a challenging and important subject and deserves to be seen.

The Future.

Plus, this isn’t the last you’ll see of the evolving All Our Brains exhibition, nor is what you see ‘the finished product.’

Lee, Andrew and the other participants see the exhibition – not as a static thing or as the end of a conversation – but as a tool that can continue to evolve and provide a supportive space in which stories of all aspects of dementia to be explored.
Towards that aim, The Drink Wise Age Well project are running two workshops, in connection with the exhibition, which will invite local participants to create work to add to the collection and to make new links with people, stories and art. These are free but you do need to book through the organisers – call 0800 032 3723 to book your place.

Lee is open to speak to anyone affected by issues in the exhibition or who have a story to tell, as is Grace of the Drink Wise Age Well organisation.

The Valerie Foundation
Drink Wise Age Well
Rehab 4 Addiction
(R4A is a free helpline run by people who’ve beaten drug and alcohol addicition)