Installation to Commemorate May as National ALS Awareness Month
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge created an unprecedented amount of public awareness and funds for the fight against ALS. Building on the momentum of last year’s campaign, the Les Turner ALS Research and Patient Center at Northwestern Medicine has commissioned an ice sculpture exhibition to bring attention to specific people with ALS and the debilitating effects of the disease. The new exhibition will further symbolize the seriousness of the disease and why it is so critical to fund research and patient services.
A total of twelve sculptures depicting people with ALS will be installed outside the Norris University Center at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus (May 7), at Northwestern’s downtown medical school campus (May 8) and at a downtown location TBD (May 12). One sculpture will be installed in Evanston, four will be near the medical school and seven will be displayed downtown. Actual people, including former NFL star Steve Gleason and the late Les Turner, are represented in the exhibition.
“ALS is a devastating disease for patients and their loved ones,” said Valda Thomas, whose son London passed away from the disease at age 33 in 2014. “The ice sculptures are an appropriate symbol for what happens to a patient’s body. The physical deterioration is gradual, and was difficult for my son to accept. And for me, as a mother watching her son struggle with a terminal illness, the emotional impact was heartbreaking.”
Acclaimed artist Jim Nadeau created the life-size sculptures, but first studied photographs and video of each person to best represent their likeness. A plaque providing details about the patient has been placed alongside each piece so that people may learn more about their personal story. Depending upon placement, weather conditions and density of the artwork, it is expected that each sculpture will slowly melt within 15 hours.
A video crew will be onsite during the three-day exhibition to capture reactions from people who pass by and document the melting process. The Les Turner ALS Research and Patient Center at Northwestern Medicine will utilize the footage and incorporate educational information into a series of brief videos as a means of further raising awareness of ALS.
“We tried to best represent the ALS patient community by creating sculptures of men and women, old and young, and of varying races and ethnicities,” explained Andrea Pauls Backman, executive director of the Les Turner ALS Foundation. “Although the disease tends to strike men more frequently than women and often occurs between 40-70 years of age, ALS can affect anyone from young adults to the elderly. After a diagnosis, we often see patients embrace a mantra of living with ALS, not dying from ALS.”
The public can view the sculptures on the following dates in the locations listed below:
- May 7: Norris University Center (1999 Campus Dr.), Northwestern University, Evanston
- May 8: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago
- Corner of East Chicago and North Fairbanks
- Corner of East Superior and North Fairbanks
- Corner of East Erie and North Fairbanks
- East Huron between Galter and Feinberg Pavilions
- May 12: Downtown Chicago – Exact location TBD
Furthermore, people who see the sculptures can extend the reach by sharing photos on social media using #FreezeALS, #lesturnerals and #NUFeinbergMed, or on Twitter at @lesturnerals and @NUFeinbergMed.
Just as the Ice Bucket Challenge raised awareness and funds, the ice sculptures are designed to generate buzz and also support the new Les Turner ALS Research and Patient Center at Northwestern Medicine. The Center brings together three world-renowned research laboratories, a multi-disciplinary ALS patient clinic and education activities at Northwestern under one umbrella.
The public is encouraged to donate in honor of the exhibition by visiting FreezeALS.com/index.html.