Hidden Truths, the Mind Unraveled at the National Institutes of Health

Julie Thompson-Dobkin
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In early February, I had the pleasure of visiting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, to view selected works of art from Hidden Truths, the Mind Unraveled 2014. This annual event is presented by the Hidden Truths Project (HTP) in collaboration with the Epilepsy Foundation.

It was an honor to showcase the works of these talented artists in one of the premier bio-medical research institutions of the world. Martha Blalock, creative director of medical arts at NIH and a featured HTP artist, gave me the grand tour. The Epilepsy Foundation’s Kim Macher, vice president of Epilepsy Therapy Project, and Chad Hartman, vice president of development, joined me later to view the exhibit.

The art exhibited in Hidden Truths, the Mind Unraveled has become a visual language to reveal the truths about epilepsy. The participating have shared the role of art in their lives, bolstered by such statements as,

  • “Art is the part of my life I can control, when so much of it is dictated by my seizures.”
  • “The creation of art helps me focus, relax; it becomes my meditation.”

Yet for those whose art can be categorized as epilepsy-related, their work has become a mirror reflecting the internal chaos often suffered with their seizures.

All of humanity can relate to art on some level. Over the past three years, it has become apparent that art can be an effective modality to educate and to foster understanding and acceptance of a condition that is often poorly understood by most members of society.

Hidden Truths, the Mind Unraveled continues to attract a national and international following, with artists from as far away as Malaysia, Australia, Uganda, Spain, the U.K., Ireland, and Canada. Epilepsy does not discriminate based on socioeconomic standing, gender, age or race. Likewise, art is not restricted by boundaries or bias. Art is the unifying factor connecting the young and old, the rich and the poor, and all nationalities spanning the globe… “the Mind Unraveled” artists all bonded together by epilepsy.

The National Institutes of Health in collaboration with Fitzgerald Fine Arts (FFA) have played a leading role in the arts and health care movement over the past several decades. Lillian Fitzgerald, director and founder of FFA, has been instrumental in this movement, witnessed by over 2,000 pieces of art displayed in patient rooms and common areas. 

The Epilepsy Foundation, a national non-profit with 48 affiliated organizations throughout the United States, has led the fight against seizures since 1968. The Foundation is an unwavering ally for individuals and families impacted by epilepsy and seizures. The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to stop seizures and sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), find a cure and overcome the challenges created by epilepsy through efforts including education, advocacy and research to accelerate ideas into therapies. The Foundation works to ensure that people with seizures have the opportunity to live their lives to their fullest potential. For additional information, please visit www.epilepsy.com. “Like” the Epilepsy Foundation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/epilepsyfoundationofamerica and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/epilepsyfdn.

Hidden Truths Project, an initiative of the Kant Institute (TKI), is a bipartisan, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated towards fostering national learning and the creation of public discussion surrounding key policy issues. HTP will continue its work in the area of utilizing art as both a tool and way of learning. Its focus since inception is in epilepsy, whereby art became a tool to educate and create understanding, to abolish barriers and misconstrued biases, and above all to recognize these talented artists, linked through epilepsy.

Through TKI’s innovative and expansive model, HTP will continue to explore the use of art in other socially challenging situations. In January, TKI launched its Veterans Initiative, another avenue to generate substantive discussion surrounding a crisis of communication. The initiative is currently recruiting veterans with traumatic brain injury/post-traumatic epilepsy to share their stories through art and essays. The goal is to bridge the military-civilian gap to create understanding and foster empathy, as they re-integrate into a society with little understanding of the hidden disabilities they continue to suffer.

Dr. Julie Thompson-Dobkin
Founder:,Hidden Truths Project
Director of Curriculum Studies/ Senior Fellow, The Kant Institute

Authored by: Julie Thompson-Dobkin, DO on 3/2015
Call for Artists!

Calling artists with epilepsy. Applications are due June 1 for the 2015 Hidden Truths, the Mind Unraveled juried art show and fundraiser. There is no entry fee to participate.

Please join us for the 2015 Hidden Truths, the Mind Unraveled juried art show and fundraiser on Saturday, October 3, in Orange County, California.

Learn more at www.epilepsy.com/hiddentruths.

Our Mission

The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.

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