Hellman Visiting Artist Program

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The unique Hellman Visiting Artist Program was created to foster dialogue between scientists, caregivers, patients, clinicians and the public regarding creativity and the brain. Each year, an accomplished artist (visual artist, musician, writer or other creative individual) is invited to visit the Memory and Aging Center to learn about neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia. We encourage a creative exchange between the artist and the researchers, as well as interactions with patients and families who agree to participate. The Visiting Artist also shares their creativity with the larger community through a public performance.

2012–2013 Artist: Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield, prize-winning poet, translator and essayist, is the author of seven collections of poetry and the editor and co-translator of four books containing the work of poets from the past. Her work appears regularly in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, and other journals and can be found in the 2013 editions of The Best Spiritual Writing, The Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize Anthology. Her poetry speaks to the central issues of human existence – desire and loss, impermanence and beauty, the many dimensions of our connection with others and the wider community of creatures and objects with which we share our lives. Her subjects range from the metaphysical and passionate to the political, ecological, and scientific to subtle unfoldings of daily life and experience. Among numerous honors, in 2004 Jane Hirshfield was awarded the 70th Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by The Academy of American Poets, an honor formerly held by such poets as Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop. In 2012, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy and received the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry.

Poet Jane Hirshfield: Unleashing the Mystery of Existence – Writer Kim Rosen speaks with the acclaimed poet about Zen, openness, and the “desperation” of the creative process.

Event Information

The artist events are open to all who are interested. Free admission. Reserve your space at info@memory.ucsf.edu.

  • Tuesday, April 9, 5-7 p.m., Sandler Neurosciences Center (675 Nelson Rising Lane, San Francisco): The 2013 Hellman Visiting Artist Reception and Poetry Reading
  • Wednesday, October 16, 6-9 p.m., Robert W. Mahley Auditorium, Gladstone Institutes (1650 Owens Street, San Francisco): "Poetry & Science: A Shared Exploration" is co-hosted by Litquake and the UCSF Memory and Aging Center’s Hellman Visiting Artist Program. The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. with light refreshments.
    C.P. Snow complained of a world in which the “two cultures” of science and the humanities have grown increasingly separate. This two-part evening offers another story, in which four neuroscientists discuss research in language cognition, emotion, and the ways that our brain structure may affect the language of poems. Followed by four poets reading work that delves into the sciences with curiosity, range, and the imagination. The science panel includes Dr. Bruce Miller, Dr. Marilu Gorno-Tempini, Dr. Virginia Sturm, and Pireeni Sundaralingam. The poets include Jane Hirshfield, Forrest Gander, David Watts, and Kay Ryan.
    Video recordings of this evening will be posted shortly on the UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center YouTube Channel.
  • Thursday, December 5, 6-8:30 p.m., Genentech Hall (600 16th Street, San Francisco): Poetry and the End of Life: The end of a life is not solitary: it is our shared fate, a through-passing universally experienced, witnessed, and attended. This multi-faceted evening will bring together the words and thoughts of poets, caregivers, physicians, medical educators, and hospice chaplains. The conversation will illuminate and share some of the ways art makes possible a more enlarged awareness and more intimate embrace of what has been called by novelist Henry James “the distinguished thing,” and by Zen “the Great Matter”—a transition and challenge met and faced from many directions throughout the course of every human existence. Speakers will include: award-winning poets Jane Hirshfield, current Hellman Visiting Artist UCSF Memory and Aging Center, and Sandra Gilbert, UC Davis Distinguished Professor Emerita; pioneering hospice founder and end of life educator Frank Ostaseski; UCSF physician Dr. Mary De May; Dr. Steven Pantilat, director of UCSF Palliative Care Leadership Center; UCSF Memory and Aging Center director Dr. Bruce Miller; hospice chaplain volunteer Tova Green; Dr. Guy Micco, co-director Program in the Medical Humanities, UC Berkeley School of Public Health; and others. Improvisational violinist Shira Kammen will perform during the opening reception and over course of evening.

Directions and Parking

Past Hellman Visiting Artists

2011–2012 Artist: Heidi Clare

Heidi Clare is widely acknowledged as the best old-time fiddler currently performing. Her style and the material that she chooses to perform keeps alive the hundreds-years-old traditions established by immigrant fiddlers (mostly European) who came to America starting in the seventeenth century and established the fiddle as a major American instrument for folk dancing, Appalachian ballads and hoedowns, and bluegrass breakdowns. She does it all, and applies the muscle to her performances that has been indicative of the hard working pioneer farmers and stock men and women who carried the traditional sounds of the instrument into modern times. She not only plays the music that drove the raucous dances of those pioneers, but the dances the steps as well. She has performed all over the U.S. with her own band as well as with the Reeltime Travelers, which also recorded on the sound track of the movie, Cold Mountain. Unlike many of the other “folk-type” fiddlers that play traditionally oriented fiddle tunes, Heidi Clare is formally trained and holds a master’s degree in music.

2009–2011 Artist: Deborah Aschheim

Deborah Aschheim makes installations based on invisible networks of perception and thought. Her work since 2005 has explored the subject of memory, leading her to collaborate with musicians and neuroscientists on projects that are an equal mix of science and poetry. Aschheim holds a BA degree in anthropology from Brown University and an MFA degree from the University of Washington. She has received fellowships from the City of Los Angeles, the Pasadena Arts Commission, the Durfee Foundation, and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. She has been artist-in-residence in the North Carolina Healthcare system; at Fundacion Valparaiso in Mojacar, Spain; at Headlands in Marin, California; at Hallwalls in Buffalo, NY; at the Bemis Center in Omaha, NE; and at the Roswell Museum and Art Center in New Mexico. She lives in Southern California.

November 16, 2013