Art exhibit closed 2 weeks early after pieces vandalized, stolen

An art exhibit that showcased 14 works of art inspired by neuroscience research projects was vandalized over the weekend, causing organizers to pull the plug on the display.

'Its value — it's irreplaceable,' organizer says of piece that is still missing

This blue beaded pillow was on display as part of Neurocraft, an art exhibit that blended art and science. The pillow case has sentimental value and the organizers hope it will be returned. (Submitted)

An art exhibit that showcased 14 works of art inspired by neuroscience research projects was vandalized over the weekend, causing organizers to pull the plug on the display.

"It was quite disastrous, it wasn't just a simple knocking something off the wall, the [art pieces] were destroyed," said Jessica Hodgson with the Manitoba Craft Council.

Security staff at the Health Sciences Centre discovered the damage on Saturday evening around 7 p.m. The exhibit was on display in the John Buhler Research Centre Atrium since March 3 and was supposed to run until the end of the month.

"Unfortunately at this point we just have to take the work down to protect the rest of the work," said Hodgson.
Jessica Hodgson with the Manitoba Craft Council says they are disappointed with what happened but knew there were risks having the exhibit in a public place. The goal was to make the art accessible to the public. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Hodgson says along with two pieces of art being badly damaged, the display was left in disarray. A wine bottle and a pack of cigarettes were left behind, as well as a smear of lipstick on one of the placards explaining how the exhibit came to be.

"The [art pieces] are completely irreplaceable, the artists have spent countless hours working on these, and the personal significance of each piece is completely irreplaceable," said Hodgson.

Neurocraft is a joint project between the Manitoba Neuroscience Network and the Manitoba Craft Council. Local artists were paired up with neuroscience researchers and crafted their works over a two-year period.

The exhibit hoped to engage and educate the public about brain research in Manitoba by taking on complicated illnesses — like Alzheimer's, degenerative brain diseases, brain blood clots, and memory loss — and depicting them as accessible art projects.
This hand-beaded pillow called For Each Thought of Losing Them, was damaged and the case is still missing. The organizers are hoping it will be returned. (Submitted)

The organizers are hoping to find what's left of the one of the damaged pieces called For Each Thought of Losing Them.

"It was a hand-beaded pillow, the case had been torn off and the stuffing placed around the room," said Hodgson.

The pillowcase is still missing and suspected to have been stolen. It was made as a meditation piece that the artist, Michelle Wilson, used to grieve the loss of her unborn child during her work on the project.

"You can't put a value on the loss that she must be feeling from losing this piece," said Hodgson.

The Neurocraft exhibit has many visitors in its first few weeks. The organizers decided to end the display early to protect the rest of the artwork. (Submitted)

The pillow was not behind a protective case like some of the other pieces were because it incorporated the use of sound. A speaker, which was not on display at the time of the incident, played an ultrasound recording of a heartbeat .

"I think her request is to just have it returned. If someone took it for fun or threw it in a dumpster, if anyone sees it that they could just return it and give it back, because its value — it's irreplaceable."

The other piece that was damaged was also a very personal creation by artist Anne Stinner. It included handmade books of photos of the artist's mother who had passed away from Alzheimer's.
This piece by Anne Stinner was damaged and the pages ripped out of the book case. The books were filled with images of the artist's mother who passed away from Alzheimer's. (Submitted)

"The books were torn out of the book case and actually pulled apart and shredded," she said.

The exhibit's organizers say they knew the risks of setting up the display in a public area, but wanted the art to be accessible.

They still have the space for another two weeks and are considering setting up a more interactive installation where people can share their thoughts about art and science.

The Neuroscience exhibit is set to be displayed in Montreal at the end of May. Both artists have other pieces in the show.

Anyone who has information on the whereabouts of the missing piece is asked to contact the Manitoba Craft Council at 204-946-0803.