The “Convergence” initiative takes flight: RI-MUHC trainees and Concordia University fine arts students explore new ways to explain brain research

Is it art, or is it science? It’s “Convergence: Perceptions of Neuroscience,” a project that promises unique rewards to those who dare to cross the great divide. 

For the next eight months, teams of Concordia University fine arts students and trainees from the Brain Repair and Integrative Neuroscience (BRaIN) Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) will collaborate to create works of art inspired by neuroscience research projects. The initiative launched with a stimulating interchange on October 12, when the neuroscientists gave five-minute talks about their research projects to the arts and media students. 

Dr. Cristian Zaelzer, a research associate in Dr. Charles Bourque’s laboratory at the RI-MUHC, is the founder and director of Convergence. The plan, he explains, is to create a connection between scientists and artists, raising public awareness on the importance of brain research in society. “This initiative is about bringing the passion—the wonder in every observation, every data point, every question pondered—to everyone,” he says, “in a language that can be easily understood.” 

The project brings together seventeen RI-MUHC trainees from the BRaIN Program and fifty students from the Concordia Faculty of Fine Arts in disciplines as diverse as dance, visual arts, music, ceramics and art history. It was developed over the summer by a cross-disciplinary team led by Dr. Zaelzer, in collaboration with Dr. Andrée Lessard, manager of the BRaIN program. The Concordia University Faculty of Fine Arts and Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CAN) joined Convergence as partners and sponsors. 

“Neuroscientists get very little media attention, and sometimes feel that nobody cares about their work unless they receive the Nobel Prize,” says Dr. Lessard. “Yet their contribution is of inestimable value to society. This unique project will break down walls and give research trainees an opportunity to reach out to the population, to show that science is accessible to all.” 

The students’ creations will be exhibited at a public event with media coverage at La Grande Bibliotheque (BaNQ) and Hotel Bonaventure this spring as part of the 2017 Annual Canadian Neuroscience meeting in Montreal, representing approximately a thousand researchers from across the country.

The next step is for the Concordia artists to visit RI-MUHC labs and attend lectures on basic science related to the brain.  The public is invited to the lectures, sponsored by CAN,  from 5 to 6 p.m. on November 25 in the Livingston Lounge, L6-500, at the Montreal General Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre.

To learn more about “Convergence,” please visit http://www.convergenceinitiative.org/
or email: info@convergenceinitiative.org

—published October 27, 2016