Unmasking new arrivals

BY:  SHANNON SCHILLING

Dedicated quality poured out upon the elegantly displayed array of expressiveness, and groups of brain injury confidants cast their talent in raw form.

Participant Chris paints his mask for unmasking brain injury
PHOTO: SHANNON SCHILLING

Picturesque participation mastered itself along this year’s province-wide event: Unmasking Brain Injury. In Toronto, four sessions, over two months, that were available for participants to attend at the CHIRS head office on Yonge Street, Toronto. The third day on April 7, 2018, from 1-4 p.m.: that afternoon I attended with my husband (pictured above).

Along with survivors and their partnerships, the CHIRS staff welcomed an incredible show of artistic achievement. Clients’ feelings were captured inside and out, with primary colours envisioning an individuality to others.

It was an event not to be missed, with collaboration representing members from both CHIRS and BIST on all four afternoons it was available. The Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA) brought the event to the attention of brain injury associations across the province to share in the experience.

The movement began in North Carolina in the United States and has internationally gained attention and participation worldwide.

Unmasking Brain Injury

Anticipating Brain Injury Awareness Month up and coming in June, each mask unfolds a journey contemplating the struggle and eventual acceptance of complete enlightenment. It was not a requirement, but thoughtful insight may have assisted in the creation of the fulfillment of property.

BIST Communications and Support Coordinator Meri Perra expressed to me how she was very humbled by the experience, “I had a huge respect for the artists involved and the project as a whole.”

What an uplifting afternoon!

It’s hard to believe that the mind has so much instinctive awareness; and what we come to believe with our eyes, is carried around as thoughts inside. I need my brother right now, so he can ask his machine, “Alexa, who first invented art?”

Of course, it is the expression of art that is not able to be contained in a simple answer. In all relativity, it is something that everyone needs to discover within themselves first to unmask its glow.

See the Masks on display at 9 Bars Coffee,  June 1 – 14

9 Bars is located at 46 St. Clair Ave East, Mon – Fri, 7:30 – 6 p.m.


 

 Shannon Schilling has recently had a baby girl, Annabelle, and lives in Oakville with her fiance, Christopher Uy. This summer she is able to attend the University of Toronto for a single course as well as acknowledging the juxtaposition of responsibilities at home. She owes enormous gratitude to the considerate help from her family.

Expressive art show sneak peek – you’ll be amazed at what Abby creates with her smart phone

The art work keeps pouring in for our Beauty + The Beast: The Good + Bad of ABI Expressive Art Show – happening Thursday, April 26 4-7 p.m. at Christ Church Deer Park. And while we are already knew BIST members are a talented bunch – and this year’s art show submissions are truly amazing!

To give you a taste of what is to come, check out our Expressive Art Show co-curator, Abby Schnurr Mongkonrob’s amazing work, which she creates using her smart phone.

Our Expressive Art Show & Community Agency Fair is a FREE event, but some of our Expressive Artists will be selling their art, which includes: greeting cards, photography and other crafts – so you’ll want to bring your wallet!

Abby Schnurr Mongkonrob

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BIST Community Agency Fair & Beauty + the Beast: The Good + Bad of ABI Expressive Art Show | Thursday, April 26, 4 – 7 p.m.
Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge Street (North of St. Clair) www.bist.ca/community-fair

 

Need some music in your life? Recollectiv Music Group is coming to Toronto

BY: ROBIN LY

Toronto’s Recollectiv is not your typical musical troop.

It is a group where people living with conditions such as dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acquired brain injury (ABI), Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease can come together to create and experience music.

But it’s also about improving group members’ quality of life, what Recollectiv’s founder, Ilana Waldston, says is about, “Rediscovering joy by making music.”

Waldston’s mother lives with dementia – and like others living with chronic conditions – her mother spends a lot of her time with doctors, social workers, and other professionals.

“[My mother] was a very vibrant, active woman,” Waldston said. “As her disease progressed, she lost so many of the activities she loved … singing [is] one of the few things left we can share that makes us both happy.”

Waldston sees Recollectiv as a way for individuals to focus on what they can do, as opposed to what they have lost.

“The main takeaway of Recollectiv [is to] touch others’ lives through group music making, something so fundamental and universal that elevates everyone’s quality of life,” Waldston said.

Recollectiv is inspired by the California band The 5th Dementia, created by couple Carol and Irwin Rosenstein.

Irwin Rosenstein, who practised real estate law, lives with Parkinson’s and early dementia. After his diagnosis, the couple realized Irwin Rosenstein’s memory, energy, and well-being improved when he played and taught music to others. This is backed by research, music therapy alters the chemistry in the brain by stimulating the release of dopamine, which effectively increases energy and improves mood.

In addition to The 5th Dementia, the couple created the non-profit MusicMendsMinds (MMM) whose mission is to support the mind and spirit of those affected by neurological disease, cognitive decline, and PTSD through musical groups. There are currently nine MMM affiliated bands in the U.S., mostly based in California, with other bands forming in the Philippines, other U.S. states, and the organization has been a supportive partner with Recollectiv.

The organization has also inspired a documentary, to be released this summer:

Back in Toronto, Waldston says finding activities for her mother has been difficult.

A trip to the symphony, an outing both Waldston and her mom previously loved, became challenging when her mother began to sing or talk along with the music, something generally not appreciated by fellow audience members.

It’s that stigma and feeling of non-belonging surrounding neurodiversity that Recollectiv  hopes to neutralize in the future.

“I want [the public] to realize that people with cognitive challenges are just like them; they deserve to feel good about themselves, have friends around them who care and, above all, have some fun,” Waldston said.

Waldston hopes Recollectiv, which is a project of Smile Theatre Company, can lead to the creation of new groups and communities where people can access support and share a joyous activity together.

“I have lived long enough to know that life is short and unpredictable,” Waldston said.  “You can’t fix a lot of things that cause people pain but if you can bring happy moments back into their lives, that’s a huge achievement.”

Recollectiv will meet in Central Toronto on Saturday afternoons in an accessible and barrier-free location. There is no cost for participation, and anyone who wants to sing and or play an instrument, regardless of any physical or neurological diversity, are welcome to join.

For further information about Recollectiv and to register go to: http://recollectiv.ca/home.

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Robin Ly is a Bachelor of Social Work student at Ryerson University graduating in spring 2018. She has been completing her fourth year placement with BIST and loves that she’s able to get back into writing to talk about advocacy, awareness, and transformative change.

The Heart of Art

BY: MARK KONING

I have found Art to be a great therapy tool. I say that with a capital ‘A’ because I am referring to all forms of Art, from singing to painting, dancing to acting. For me, writing is something I use as my coping mechanism and support for understanding. Writing is my learning tool and aids my growth. But throughout my life it has been anything creative that has made an impact. It is the ability to use the imagination, to soar high and move forward.

photo credit: Writing Tools via photopin (license)
photo credit: Writing Tools via photopin (license)

I have heard many stories about the ways in which a form of Art has helped individuals deal with brain injury, such as music or sculpting. Creating seems to bring about a relaxation to the mind, and a flow to the body. Even listening to music can offer someone motivation. Looking at pictures or staring at a painting can begin to alleviate pain.

Art is in the eye of the beholder, and because of this freedom, it can bring huge amounts of joy to the heart. It does this for plenty of people both with and without a disability because creative arts are like magic to the soul.

Doing the craft yourself or witnessing it within the pages of a book, a stage, the big or small screen; the brain becomes active and stimulates emotions. These are emotions which otherwise tend to remain stagnant when stuck in a cycle of isolation, depression, or frustration. Just calm down and pick up a paint brush, hum a tune or get lost in the cloud of the imagination. I’ve seen brain injury survivors come alive and develop a passion because of Art. Those powerful feelings can be transferred onto other challenges such as cleaning the house to going to a regular job.

photo credit: Massimo Ranieri Concert 2009 Taormina-Sicilia-Italy - Creative Commons by gnuckx via photopin (license)
photo credit: Massimo Ranieri Concert 2009 Taormina-Sicilia-Italy – Creative Commons by gnuckx via photopin (license)

Dr. Lukasz M. Konopka  states in Where art meets neuroscience: a new horizon of art therapy,

Various fields use the concept of brain plasticity. One such very exciting, emerging field involves the study of art and the brain, or art therapy. … in terms of therapy, there is no difference between using scientifically validated novel art therapy and other current standard therapeutic interventions. Treating human pathology using art gives us a tremendous alternative unique and novel option for engaging brain networks that enhance the way the brain processes information, incorporates external and internal data, and develops new efficient brain connections.

Whether you are looking at art from a scientific standpoint, a therapeutic one, or as just a hobby, there is no doubt that the effects that dance upon the brain are inspiring.

Since sustaining his brain injury at an early age and now armed with a Creative Writing diploma and a social responsibility, the goal for Mark is to share, inspire and grow, with others and himself. To learn more, you can visit his website at www.markkoning.com