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The Lou Ruvo Center shows how art is good for your head

<p>Work by Peter Alexander</p>

Work by Peter Alexander

<p>Work by James Rosenqui</p>

Work by James Rosenqui

The shining, curvilinear silver surfaces catch your eye on every drive down Bonneville Avenue or Grand Central Parkway. But have you ever stopped to enter downtown’s melty metal building?

The curvy architectural marvel, designed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry, is the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, where professionals research brain disorders and offer treatments and care for patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, frontaltemporal disorders [FTD] and more.

But that’s just part of the picture, and the building itself is symbolic of the larger scope of activities taking place at Lou Ruvo.

“[The building] was designed by an 80-year-old architect who is still absolutely breaking the mold,” says Dr. Jeffery Cummings, neurologist and director of the Lou Ruvo Center. “Many people say [Lou Ruvo] was his greatest interior. So that’s kinda where I start, that creativity is an expression of a healthy brain. The fact that the building itself is a piece of art is for me a statement about a healthy brain.”

From exterior to interior, art and creativity are a huge component of the center’s programing, and plans are in the works for more. A lecture held on May 31 discussed the benefits of art therapy for patients with brain disorders.

“My patients developed a new interest in art, and in some cases began producing amazing art,” explained guest lecturer and neurologist Dr. Bruce Miller. “The theme has been in patients with FTD, especially when the disease hits the language side of the brain … they develop new artistic ability.”

Sparked by the lecture, discussions are underway to develop an art therapy program for Lou Ruvo patients. The use of art therapy is a relatively new concept within neurology and patient treatment. “It’s the sociology of neurology,” explains Cummings. “It’s been describing disease, and more recently finally treating disease, and this could be seen as another step in restoring people’s brain function. Now [art] is seen as much more interventional. It’s a variably endorsed concept in the neurology world. It’s not exactly brand new, but it’s novel enough that not everybody has decided to do it.”

In addition to a new art therapy program, works of art are prominently displayed throughout the center, lining hallways, decorating patient-care rooms and offices. Art exhibited within a center of neurology infuses the viewing experience with contemplation of creativity and the amazing brain functionality behind it. Abstract kelpish works by Leslie Wayne feel dendritic in form. The lines crackling up the colored wood surfaces of works by Ed Moses feel like memories deteriorating before our eyes. Organic architectural scribbles upon blooms of color by Gehry appear on every floor. “I walk through an art gallery on the way to my office every day,” Cummings says with a smile.

A majority of the center’s collection is sourced from the main Cleveland Clinic campus in Cleveland, Ohio, but others are treasured donations. Within the morphed, cathedral-like atrium hangs a massive James Rosenquist work, commissioned for the center by Steve Wynn. It presents a scintillating cosmos, partially masked by an abstraction of metallic curves; lush roses proliferate on top, next to a shimmering translucent skull. Rosenquist attended the installation of his painting, only signing it after hanging was complete.

Adjacent, a photograph by Jeff Mitchum turns the Lou Ruvo to gold in the twilight, windows mysteriously glowing hot pink, the cycles of the moon splaying across the top. The artist invited Cummings and Larry Ruvo to name the piece and, inspired by the restoration implied by moon phases, they christened it “Triumph of Light and Hope.”

The art continues outside in the center’s Xeric garden, which includes a sizable mound of rough-cut blue-green glass titled “Sugar,” by artist Peter Alexander.

Select works are part of the complex’s permanent collection, but many are available for purchase, with a portion of the funds benefiting the center and artists.

Thanks to the assistance of local art consultant Michele Quinn, the Lou Ruvo Center boasts as many works by Las Vegas artists as those curated in from Cleveland. Color-saturated photos by local photographer Clark Stillman, capturing the center and other Vegas locations, abound. A Sush Machida Gaikotsu livens up a waiting room; a Tim Bavington pulses in a hallway; a drawing of red wind by Brent Sommerhauser quietly whistles above a water fountain.

Guided tours of the art collection are encouraged and can be booked by contacting the center. Also free and open to the public is an on-going art conversation series that broadcasts contemporary art discussions held at the Cleveland Museum of Art, through videoconferencing in the main atrium. “It’s very well attended; in fact, we have more people attending in Las Vegas than in Cleveland,” says Cummings. And the tempting Mediterranean eats at the center’s Keeping Memory Alive Café are a must.

Case studies have shown “art protect[ing] the brain in a very interesting way,” Cummings adds. Head down to the melty metal building and give that right brain a healthy tap.

Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health 888 W. Bonneville Ave.,, 483-6000.