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MSU Science Gallery Hosts Conversations About the Science of Grief

MSU Science Gallery is hosting a 3-day Science of Grief program in partnership with the MSU Broad Art Museum, WKAR, and the San Francisco-based nonprofit Reimagine from March 24 – 26, 2022. The theme for the program is “Spring into Wellness.” This responsive program comes at a time when many are grappling with the enduring impact of the pandemic on mental health and wellbeing.

Started by MSU Science Gallery’s Community Engagement Manager Natasha T. Miller in 2018, Science of Grief is a series of community conversations that explores multiple forms of grief while featuring scientific research, poetry, art, and performance. The annual program responds to the idea that grief comes at different hours, for different people, and everyone deserves a listening ear.

The Science of Grief: Poetry Workshop and Reading will kick off the 2022 edition of the Science of Grief program. In this virtual poetry workshop and reading with Natasha T. Miller and Lauren Russell, an Assistant Professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and Director of the RCAH Center for Poetry at Michigan State University, participants will create poems from medical records in conversation with the current exhibition, Kahlo Without Borders, now on view at the MSU Broad Art Museum through August 7, 2022.

Seeing images of Kahlo’s medical records at the Broad was particularly striking for Russell, who has been making poems from her own medical records, including a psychological evaluation of her as a teenager. Russell, who identifies as neurodivergent, said “When I was younger, I was often in situations where I was being talked about and acted upon, often with the best intentions, but I didn’t have control over the narratives being constructed about me. Being able to transform those records into poetry has been source of empowerment for me as an adult, a way of taking ownership of my own story.”

On Friday, March 25, the MSU Museum will partner with WKAR to present A Conversation with Dr. LeConté Dill. Dr. Dill is an Associate Professor in the Department of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University. In her work as a community-accountable scholar, educator, and poet, she listens to and shows up for urban Black girls and works to rigorously document their experiences of safety, resilience, resistance, and wellness. Audience member will have the opportunity to talk about their grief before and after the keynote speaker.

“As we hold space for grief and grief work during the week of programming and beyond, I am honored to also center understandings and rituals of wellness during my keynote, remarked Dr. Dill. “Coming from the Department of African American and African Studies, I bring with me lessons from Black Feminisms around rituals of grief, grieving, healing, and wellness. When I say wellness, I explicitly lean on Toni Cade Bambara, who through her work, illuminates how the active pursuit of our needs and desires is, in fact, our responsibility. During my talk, we’ll consider some of the systematic forces that may block us from engaging in wellness practices, but we’ll also lift up examples of how we do and can foster rituals around our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.”

The 2022 Science of Grief program concludes with a virtual conversation and meditation session with Sundari Malcolm and Bonnie Wheeler from the Reimagine organization. Reimagine hosts community-driven experiences that bring creativity, connection, and essential conversation to face adversity, loss, and mortality, and channel the hard parts of life into meaningful action and growth. Doula, yoga instructor, and meditation teacher Sundari Malcolm and mental health counselor Bonnie Wheeler will lead a discussion on grief, loss, wellness, and justice. Following their conversation, Malcolm will lead a 45-minute meditation.

The first editions of Science of Grief, produced by MSU Science Gallery and hosted at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), were 14-hours in duration. In 2020, due to the pandemic, the Science of Grief went virtual as a global collaboration between MSU Science Gallery and Science Galleries Dublin and Atlanta. Over 6000 people tuned-in from around the world to participate in the live event. In 2021, through a partnership WDET-FM, Detroit’s NPR Station, a 10-episode podcast series was created to make space for young adults to share stories, science, and solutions for those who are experiencing grief and exploring their mental health for the first time. On Thursday, March 10, 2022, the Michigan Association of Broadcasters named the Science of Grief podcast the winner of the Best Use of New Media award for Public Radio Group 2 during its 2021 Broadcast Excellence Awards ceremony.