IAM Lab Heads Overseas to Lead Arts and Brain Health Conference

Susan on stage in China

The International Arts + Mind Lab (IAM Lab) held its first overseas convening as part of the International Life Science Summer Summit in Hebei Province, China, earlier this month. Organized by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) with the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute, the three-day convening focused on brain health from a variety of perspectives, including a day dedicated to the intersection of the arts and brain health and wellness. As lead organizer of the arts and mind programming, IAM Lab positioned the field of neuroaesthetics in a global perspective—the arts offer solutions and approaches to intractable issues and problems for everyone, everywhere.

“We move through art every moment of every day and we’re not always conscious of it,” IAM Lab Executive Director Susan Magsamen said as she introduced the arts and mind session. “We’re all makers and we’re all beholders.” Magsamen then prompted the audience to imagine using the arts to build a hospital that speeds healing and recovery or to eliminate fear and stress in victims of trauma.

Magsamen took the audience through the history of the Brain Science Institute’s neuroaesthetics research and convening activities since 2010 as well as the field’s noteworthy advancements dating back to Leon Battista Alberti in 400 B.C. She noted that throughout history, scientists and artists have shared many things, including a love of discovery, curiosity and insight. Building on this rich history, Magsamen shared the IAM Lab’s goal to continue to expand the rigor and efficacy of basic science to meet the speed and accessibility of arts-based programming.

The IAM Lab’s impact-based thinking approach brings interdisciplinary research and the arts together to advance outcomes in health, wellbeing and learning through three primary goals:

  • Provide a rigorous universal translational approach that can create measurable and scalable solutions.
  • Share and train professionals to apply this approach for use in all arts integrated research-to-practice solutions as a guide for efficacy and quality.
  • Demonstrate evidence that a transdisciplinary research-rich translational process will enhance outcomes and aid in amplifying impact.

Magsamen brought together a diverse and dynamic group of practitioners from around the world to demonstrate the real-world applications of the impact-based thinking approach. Presenters included:

  • Muyao Zhang from Save the Children’s Healing and Education through the Arts (HEART) program, which uses arts-based therapy to support young people in areas of the world devastated by war or natural disaster.
  • Jeffrey Beecher, Wu Tong and Wu Man from Silkroad. Inspired by the exchange of ideas and traditions along the historical Silk Road, cellist Yo-Yo Ma established Silkroad in 1998 to create music that engages difference. Silkroad musicians are also teachers, producers, and advocates. Off the stage, they lead professional development and musician training workshops, create residency programs in schools, museums, and communities of all sizes to share Silkroad’s model of radical cultural collaboration.
  • Gong Dong, Founder and Principal Architect of Vector Architects. Dong is the acclaimed designer of the Seashore Library and Seashore Chapel in the host town of Beidaihe. The stunningly understated design connects visitors to the sound, sight and breezes of the ocean and promotes wellbeing and community through meditation space, natural light and mimicry of other natural elements in the concrete form.
  • Hideki Wada, neurologist, writer and director whose work covers a wide range of mental health issues across academic journals and popular books and film.

After four compelling presentations on arts-based approaches to health, wellbeing and learning, the session closed with a panel of presenters discussing the role of impact-based thinking approach in their work, societal views about the arts, funding issues and the biggest challenges they face.

Key next steps for the IAM Lab include continued efforts develop a  global network of neuroaesthetics researchers, scholars and practitioners and developing proof-of-concept research projects for the impact-based thinking approach along with outreach and educational initiatives.

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