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Arts and the Brain

A Symposium on the Healing Power of the Arts

Arts and the Brain

Friday, September 22, 2017

Join us at the Worcester Art Museum for a day-long symposium exploring the role that the arts can play in helping people with acquired brain injury cope with trauma, regain mental function, and reorient their lives.

Presented by VSA Massachusetts an affiliate of Seven Hills Foundation in association with The Institute for Arts and Health, Lesley University, and Boston Arts Consortium for Health (BACH).

The backdrop for the symposium will be an exhibition of artwork by Jon Sarkin, an artist whose story of emerging from a brain injury with a new and remarkable capacity for visual art is chronicled in Shadows Bright as Glass: The Remarkable Story of One Man’s Journey from Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph.  Jon will share his experience in a multi-media performance.

Speakers will explore the contribution art making and art therapy can make to healing brain trauma.  Ronald E. Hirschberg, M.D. of Harvard Medical School will share his work on the music-brain interface and neurologic music therapy (NMT).

Participants will have a choice of experiential workshops in Visual Art, Music, Movement and Intermodal Arts that will explore resources for program development.

The symposium will be appropriate for people who have experienced brain injury, their caregivers, people interested in the creative arts therapies and those working in programs serving people with brain injuries.

Registration is limited and costs $25. Register Now >

Meet the Presenters

For additional information about the workshop presenters, Click Here >

Continuing Education

5 CE’s for Licensed Mental Health Counselors will be available for an additional $25 (credit card or check made out to Lesley University accepted), to be requested and purchase on event day. These CE's are sponsored by the Institute for Arts and Health at Lesley University. (The Institute for Arts and Health at Lesley University has been approved by NBCC as an Approved Continuing Education Provider, ACEP No. 4472.  Programs that do not qualify for NBCC credit are clearly identified. The Institute for Arts and Health at Lesley University is solely responsible for all aspects of the programs.)

Occupational Therapists will be awarded certificates of attendance that will comply with the American Occupational Therapy Association's requirement for evidence of continuing education to maintain licensure, for no additional charge.

Symposium Schedule

  • 9:00 a.m. Registration
  • 10:00 a.m. Welcome
  • 11:00 a.m. Performance
  • 11:55 a.m. Panel Discussion
  • 12:30 p.m. Lunch
  • 1:30 - 3:00 p.m. Workshops
  • 3:15 p.m. True Story… A dramatic recap of the day’s events
  • 4:15 p.m. Wrap Up and Call to Action

Workshop Options


For many people music is an important vehicle for expressing and illuminating emotion and for exploring our shared humanity. Brian Harris and Ron Hirschberg will lead their group in a musical exploration and will discuss their understanding of the various therapeutic impacts of making music.


The literal embodiment of art in movement uniquely energizes the brain and promotes the integration of mind and body. This experienced team including  Vivien Marcow Speiser, Nancy Jo Cardillo, and Priscilla Harmel  will help participants experience this mind/body connection.  They will also share their understanding of the therapeutic application of mind body integration.

Telling the Story

People with ABI are often confronted with redefining themselves. Narrative writing and poetry provide a way of “re-authoring” one’s story in a new context. In this workshop, Elaine Fallon and Ami Feldman will help their participants explore techniques that are available to assist those with cognitive challenges as a result of ABI in participating in narrative writing or poetry.

Integrated Art

As powerful as each of the art forms is on their own, there is a remarkable synergy that happens when music is combined with visual art. The visual articulation of feelings stimulated by music can produce a unique integration that is impossible to experience or express otherwise. Mitchell Kossak, Ester Friedman and Carolyn Crotty will guide this exploration and discuss their understanding of its therapeutic application.

Understanding the Impact of Visual Art

Martha McKenna and a Worcester Art Museum Docent will lead gallery tours of both the Sarkin exhibit, Unchained Brain, and of some of the museum’s collection, engaging participants using the techniques of a process called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) to draw you into a deeper relationship with the art.

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