Captivating science & art project announced for Cooper Gallery

Thanks to a £15,000 funding boost from Alzheimer’s Research UK’s flagship public outreach scheme, the Inspire Fund, a new science-art project and exhibition is planned for the Cooper Gallery in Barnsley, with interactive exhibits created through a series of workshops with the local community.

Currently, around one million people are estimated to be living with dementia in the UK, including 3,000 people in Barnsley alone. It’s a condition caused by several diseases, most commonly Alzheimer’s, and sadly one in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime unless we bring about life-changing preventions and treatments.

Artist Charlie Murphy will collaborate with Prof Selina Wray, who grew up in Barnsley and now leads a group of dementia researchers at University College London. Prof Wray investigates the underlying causes of dementia, and is particularly interested in how a protein that builds up in the brain causes damage in Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.

To develop the artworks for the exhibition, the pair will collaborate with Dr Eric Hill from Aston University and engineer Robin Bussell. They will run a series of participatory workshops with local community groups to develop artworks and interactive activities about dementia and brain health.  

The Barnsley Brains team will also run tried and tested events while the exhibition is open, showcasing their illuminated ‘Brainscan Headdress’ and popular ‘Neuronal Disco’ activities. These will be held for different local groups and schools, with the goal of creating dialogue and capturing changes in perceptions and understanding of dementia and dementia research.

Charlie Murphy, said:
“This project is an exciting next step and new context for me as an artist, making new work and building on a long-standing collaboration with Prof Selina Wray. I’ve been fascinated to learn about her cutting-edge research using stem cell technology to understand the diseases that cause dementia. Together, we hope to develop some innovative ways for people to interact with art and science, bringing it to life and making it relevant to them.”

The finalised artworks will be showcased at a Cooper Gallery exhibition in October 2022.

Cllr Tim Cheetham, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place (Regeneration and Culture) said:
“We are delighted to be part of such an interesting and exciting project. To be able to engage with audiences, share knowledge, and offer insight in new and creative ways, particularly around such an important subject, is an honour for Barnsley Museums.”

Tim Parry, Director at the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK said:
“The Inspire Fund
is an innovative way for Alzheimer’s Research UK to support creative community projects and engage people with research progress. By funding local organisations in different places across the UK, we can reach more people with our work and involve them with the process. We’re looking forward to seeing the finished artworks and what is created through the collaboration between artists, scientists and local groups.”

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