BY ELISABETH ANDREWS
You’ve heard of a pride of lions and a murder of crows, but there’s no term designated for a multitude of brains—or there wasn’t until local neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor decided to appoint one. “Why not have an extravaganza of brains?” she asks. And, while she’s at it, why not install 20 giant-size brains all around Bloomington?
Taylor, 52, best known for her 2008 presentation at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference (now seen by some 10 million people online), recently formed a nonprofit organization, Jill Bolte Taylor BRAINS, Inc., with the aim of raising awareness about brain health. “The Brain Extravaganza!”—a public art exhibit, the nonprofit’s first project—will place 5-foot-tall anatomically correct brains all around the city. Local artist Joe LaMantia is Taylor’s partner in developing the big-brain prototype that will be used to cast the extravaganza of brains, each decorated to represent a different aspect of brain function.
“Bloomingfoods is sponsoring one about brain food, Dr. David Lawler of The Center for Sound Sleep is sponsoring a sleeping brain, and it looks like a group of seniors in the community will probably put forward a proposal about the aging brain,” Taylor says, by way of example. Sponsorship for each fiberglass brain costs $3,200 and covers materials, artists’ stipends, and fees for storage and transport. Taylor needed 12 sponsors to go forward with the project; she already has 20.
The next step was to pair the sponsors with local artists to visually present each theme. Once the brains are finished in April 2012, they will take up residence along the B-Line Trail, around downtown, and at a few locations on the IU campus. The display will continue through the summer and be accompanied by a series of brain-stimulating events that will likely include some fitness activities and kids’ programs.
“Bloomington is such a perfect town to have brains in,” says Taylor. “You have a good balance of the intellectual-scholastic left-brain influences and the right-brain artistic community.”
A Movie in the Making
If the stars align, one Brain Extravaganza! activity could involve viewing a film about Taylor’s life, featuring Jodie Foster and Meryl Streep. Sony Pictures has optioned the rights to Taylor’s bestselling book, My Stroke of Insight (Viking), which describes the debilitating stroke she suffered in 1996 and how her recovery inspired her message of the brain’s resilience. Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Angels & Demons) has signed on to direct the film, and Foster has agreed to play Taylor, while Streep has expressed interest in the role of Taylor’s mother. Taylor, who is an executive producer for the film, says it could be finished as soon as next year.