Powerful Art Display Evokes Compassion, Understanding Concerning Traumatic Brain Injuries

Bro. Richard Kovatch, FSC, views the Unmasking Brain Injury Initiative traveling art display housed in the LaSalle Hall lobby during Nov. 2-15, 2017. (Photo by Lester Guttuso) 

(COVINGTON, La)  In the United States, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are the leading cause of both death and disability for teenagers. To promote awareness concerning TBIs, the “Unmasking Brain Injury Initiative” traveling art display arrived at St. Paul’s School on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, where it resided in the lobby of LaSalle Hall until Wednesday, Nov. 15. Sponsored by the Brain Injury Association of Louisiana, the display showcased hand-painted, individually-decorated masks created by Louisiana residents currently living with TBIs.  

“The mission of the Unmasking Brain Injury Initiative is to educate people while raising awareness for brain injuries,” Kimberly Hill, Director of Outreach and Resources for the Brain Injury Association of Louisiana, said. “Behind every mask, there’s a story. Behind every story, there’s a person affected by traumatic brain injury. These survivors want to be heard, and these masks give them that opportunity in a creative, compelling way.”

Masks displayed within the Unmasking Brain Injury traveling art display include written descriptions from their individual artists or caregivers. (Photo by Lester Guttuso)

According to a 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, approximately 153 deaths are recorded daily throughout the United States involving TBIs. During 2013 alone, TBIs claimed the lives of over 50,000 individuals nationally, contributing nearly 30 percent to all injury-related deaths. Often referred to as a “silent epidemic,” TBIs have unsuspectingly swept the nation, while their traumatic effects have gone largely unnoticed by many Americans.

The Unmasking Brain Injury Initiative is a worldwide effort focused upon raising awareness for the prevalence of TBIs and their effects. To accomplish this endeavor, the mobile art display grants TBI survivors a prominent voice, allowing these individuals to educate the community through their artwork presented within in the exhibit. Additionally, the display exemplifies that TBI survivors are people deserving of respect, compassion, and dignity.

“My hope is that this captivating display serves as a stimulus for conversation among St. Paul’s students, faculty, coaches and teachers,” Hill said. “Through this art display, I hope that the St. Paul’s community will be able to hear the voices behind these masks.”

Additional masks displayed within the Unmasking Brain Injury traveling art display, along with written descriptions from their individual artists. (Photo by Lester Guttuso)

Besides years of clinical experience gained through working in the field of brain injury rehabilitation for several years, Hill also possesses personal experience within the field. During the summer of 2014, Hill’s son, Reagan Hill, sustained fractures in both his C5 and C6 vertebrae. As a result, Reagan was initially paralyzed from the neck down. Yet, despite insurmountable odds, Reagan made a full recovery.

“My experience working in brain injury rehabilitation for many years gives me the clinical experience for this job, while being the parent of a child who sustained a traumatic accident gives me a caregiver perspective,” Hill said. “Knowing that things could have been very different for Reagan and our family, I am passionate about helping others, especially those who have sustained traumatic brain injuries.”

After leaving St. Paul’s, the Unmasking Brain Injury Initiative will travel to numerous locations throughout Louisiana, including various colleges, hospitals and sports venues. To request the traveling art display to visit your community, call the Brain Injury Association at (504) 982-0685.

The compelling mobile art display, paired with written explanations describing the struggles of sustained TBIs, impacts seniors Forge Mathes and Will James. (Photo by Lester Guttuso)

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