About the Brain Extravaganza!

The members of the Bloomington business and artist communities together with the City of Bloomington, Indiana University, the Monroe County Community School Corporation, and other local schools (K-12) are working in collaboration with Jill Bolte Taylor and her new non-profit, Jill Bolte Taylor BRAINS, Inc. to launch the Brain Extravaganza! This fun and exciting community art project provides an opportunity for Bloomington to showcase how highly we value the brain and recognize its potential through this inclusive program on brain awareness, education, injury prevention, recovery, and the importance of movement on mental and physical health.

Twenty-two enormous fiberglass brains (5’ long, 5’ high, and 4’ wide) have been sponsored by the Bloomington business community and distributed to local and regional artists. Each of the artists was then asked to create a compelling design for brain decoration based upon a list of keywords provided by their sponsor. The completed brains will be placed on public display around Bloomington and the Indiana University campus from late April to mid-October 2012.


Over 350 communities worldwide have placed some type of fiberglass animal or object (piano, guitar, etc.) on public display. Dr. Taylor personally experienced the fiberglass cows on display in Chicago many years ago and marveled at the concept of how cool it would be to have gigantic, beautiful, and anatomically correct brains on display all around the world.

Not only would it be amazing to have beautiful brains on display, but Dr. Taylor thought it would be really healthy for many diverse interest sectors within our city to work together to manifest a project as cool as brains on our street corners. Healthy brains are healthy because they share a lot of connections between their neurons, and Dr. Taylor believes a healthy community mimics that structure. It has been important to her to have her nonprofit work in collaboration with other groups as a macrocosmic reflection of the healthy brains we are using to manifest this project. It has been a great opportunity for everyone to bring their best intentions and efforts forward to accomplish this goal.
Prototype Development:

Bloomington-based collaborative artist Joe LaMantia labored with Dr. Taylor for over three weeks during the summer of 2012 on the creation of the prototype brain. Joe was brilliant in his design and strategy for the creation of the original brain and the two artists manifested the anatomically correct 5-foot tall and long brain using leftover wood, Styrofoam and plaster. Here are a few images from that process.

1. Creation of the WOOD FRAME: Joe used leftover wood from a previous project that encouraged the public to write their thoughts on the board. You would be interested to know some of the profound thoughts held deep within the mind of the original brain:

We cannot display this gallery

2. Adding and shaping the STYROFOAM: Once the structure of the brain was established, large blocks of Styrofoam (5’ long, 2’ deep and 1’ wide) were added and then rasped to the appropriate shape. Joe was a mighty warrior!

We cannot display this gallery

3. FINISHING WITH PLASTER: The brain surface was glazed with seventy-five pounds of plaster. What a mess and what a beauty! They learned to work very quickly with this stuff.

We cannot display this gallery

4. Hauled down to Jimmy Woods: The prototype brain was delivered (in one piece!) to Jimmy Woods in Southern Indiana. Jimmy would create a mold of the prototype brain and then produce 22 fiberglass castings for the artists.

We cannot display this gallery

Artist Creation:

The twenty-two fiberglass brains were delivered to the artists. Each design was discussed with and approved by Dr. Taylor as it was important to her that the design not only appropriately represent the sponsor’s interests, but that it was neuroanatomically correct. While there are many professional artists involved with the program, a true collaborative spirit is evident with many of the artists which includes Stone Belt Center residents, Ivy Tech Community College students and high school students from two local independent schools, Pinnacle (focusing on dyslexia) and Harmony.

See the Artists section for photos of them working with their brains.

The Next Stage:

Where do we go from here? Perhaps to your community? We are already in conversation with several groups around the country about the possibly of bringing brains to their areas, as well as some potentially permanent installations. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of bringing brains to your area, please contact info@JBTBRAINS.org.


About Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist who experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996. On the afternoon of this rare form of stroke (AVM), she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. It took eight years for Dr. Jill to completely recover all of her functions and thinking ability. She is the author of The New York Times bestselling memoir My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey (published in 2008 by Viking Penguin), which is coming out in 30 languages. In 2008, Dr. Jill gave a presentation at the TED Conference in Monterey, CA, which has become the second most viewed TED Talk of all time. This now famous 18-minute presentation catapulted her story into the public eye. As a result, she was chosen as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2008. In addition, Dr. Jill was the premiere guest on Oprah’s Soul Series web-cast and was interviewed by Oprah and Dr. Oz on The Oprah Winfrey Show in October, 2008.

Dr. Taylor recently created Jill Bolte Taylor BRAINS, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing educational services and promoting programs related to the advancement of brain awareness, appreciation, exploration, education, injury prevention, neurological recovery, and the value of movement on mental and physical health, as well as other activities that support this purpose. The Brain Extravaganza! is the not-for-profits’ first educational awareness program being brought first to the community of Bloomington, Indiana, and then throughout the world.

In addition to working on the Brain Extravaganza!, Dr. Jill is creating a serious game for neurological health and recovery. She feels passionately about helping others find their way back from neurological trauma. In addition, an upcoming feature film of her life is in development by Ron Howard and Sony Pictures.

Dr. Jill remains the National Spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (Harvard Brain Bank) and educates the public about the shortage of brain tissue donated for research into severe mental illness. Since 1993, she has been an active member of NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) and is currently the president of the NAMI Greater Bloomington Area affiliate in Bloomington, Indiana.

For more information: drjilltaylor.com or follow her on TWITTER


About JBT BRAINS, Inc.(501c3)

JBT BRAINS is an acronym for Jill Bolte Taylor Brain Resources And Innovative Neurological Solutions. This nonprofit organization is the giving arm of My Stroke of Insight and was organized for the purpose of providing educational services and promoting programs related to the advancement of brain awareness, appreciation, exploration, education, injury prevention, neurological recovery and the value of movement on mental and physical health, as well as other activities in support of this purpose. In the future, JBT BRAINS, Inc., will mastermind and facilitate other community-oriented brain awareness and educational activities in the Bloomington (and beyond) area.


About Those We Should Thank

We are totally grateful for all the amazing time, energy, and efforts put forth by others on behalf of this project. The Brain Extravaganza! would not be what it is if it were not for the following individuals and organizations:

First, my heartfelt thanks to my Advisory Board who stood strong beside me during a time of tremendous transition. The Brain Extravaganza! is the premier project of Jill Bolte Taylor BRAINS, Inc. Thanks to: Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, Robert Meitus, Carrie Newcomer, Charlotte Zietlow, Joe and Merridee LaMantia, Deb and Glenn Moulton, Beth Piekarsky, and in memory of Dr. Katherine Domingo.

We could not have done it without our sponsors:

Indiana University Health Bloomington, Centerstone of Indiana, Southern Indiana Radiological Associated, Bloomingfoods Market & Deli, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor (Lotus and National Alliance on Mental Illness), Janet Barrows (Home Instead), Cook Group, Becky Allmon (WFHB), Dr. Lisa Baker and Dr. Barb Siwy, Hal Taylor, Mectra Labs, Indiana University Proton Therapy Center, Indiana University Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dr. Terri Brown, Stone Age Institute, WTIU (Stone Belt), Depts. of Kinesiology/Speech Hearing, Dr. David E. Lawler, Pinnacle School, Bloomington Chiropractic Center, Carol Allmon (Middle Way House)

Michael Shermis for project management

Joe LaMantia for prototype development

Stone Belt (Leslie Greene, Executive Director; Brad Galin, Senior Director of HR; Joe Moore and Jeff Harp, Maintenance) for warehouse space and artist hosting

WhimMill (Chris Borland, Joseph Tzeng, and Rob Pendleton) for mobile app development

Kathy Anderson and the Indiana University Student Organization for Cognitive Science for content development

Kelly Carnahan and Meredith Stockbridge for Web development

Meg Torrence, Paul Fogleman, and Gabriele Abowd Damico for volunteer coordination

Ned’s Animals and Jimmy Woods for fiberglass brain development and delivery

Miah Michaelson, Assistant Economic Development Director for the Arts, and the Boards of Public Works and Parks & Recreation from the City of Bloomington

Sherry Rouse, Curator of Campus, Sherry Knighton Schwandt, Director of Communications & Special Projects, Sarita Soni, Associate Vice President for Research/Vice Provost for Research, and Mia Williams, University Landscape Architect from Indiana University Bloomington for support for the project and helping determine and secure locations

Dr. Judy DeMuth, Superintendent, and Jan Bergeson, Director of Secondary Education, from the Monroe County Community School Corporation for help with the “A Night of 100 Brains” in Bloomington, as well as other programming on brain education and awareness

Melody Barham for being our art administration intern

Dr. Carol Armbruster Kennedy and her SPEA P416 students and Dr. Monika Herzig and her A354 Arts Marketing students from Indiana University for marketing ideas

Rachel Digreogrio and Lorraine Farrell for brain research and general support

Poynter Sheet Metal (Ken Campanella) for sign development

Dave Crane Construction and TBD for building the bases

TBD for delivering and installing the brains