August 16, 2018

Spotlight: Meet Josh Cooper CEO of the Baycrest Foundation

We were lucky enough to get the very busy Josh Cooper, president and CEO of the Baycrest Foundation, to answer some of our questions about this year’s The Yogen Fruz Pinkberry Brain Project, which is on now until the end of August here at Yonge + St. Clair.

Take a peek below to learn more about this incredible art initiative, and how it brings awareness to brain health here within the City of Toronto.

Q: In its third year now, what was the motivation for starting The Brain Project in 2016 and how did this initiative come to life?

The Brain Project is the brainchild of Baycrest Foundation donors who wanted to spark discussion about brain health, inspire the creation of thought provoking works of art and raise funds for Baycrest. The initiative came to life in 2016 with 100 amazing artists who designed brains, in the medium of their choice, depicting the many ways in which the human brain is perceived and how brain health is crucial to our overall well-being.
Since its inception in 2016, notable participants in the Project have included Michael Bublé, John Mann, Peter Mansbridge, Mr. Brainwash, Kim Kardashian, Kurt Browning, Emanuel Pavao, Bruno Bilio, Alec Monopoly, David Drebin, Sarah Farndon and Joe Carter.
Last year, The Brain Project raised more than $2.3M for Baycrest – that’s $2.3M towards helping people live better with Alzheimer’s disease; and towards helping education and support programs at Baycrest for the caregivers who are on the frontlines of brain health care, looking after family and loved ones.

Q:  A city wide public art installation at the core of this initiative. Why did Baycrest choose art to start the conversation about brain health, rather than other fundraising efforts?

Art is infused in so much of what we do at Baycrest. Through a holistic view of what it means to age well, we have a better understanding of the vital importance of engaging in activities that bring meaning and purpose and tap into our strengths and creative abilities.

From creating conversation, to triggering memories, connections, creating beautiful art work and interacting with other people, art has been used as a form of therapy at Baycrest to help with recovery and also as a tool to help people stay healthy, active and engaged.

With art playing such a large role in our care, it was a natural fit to have it be the vehicle for such an important initiative.

Q: Over 700,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Do you think brain health and aging is misrepresented in the mainstream news and media? If so, what common misconceptions still exist about Alzheimer’s that are not factual?

Over the last few years, brain health and aging-related issues have increasingly made their way into our news and media. However, we still have a long way to go to make these issues mainstream.

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias impact us all – directly or indirectly. The oldest baby boomers are turning 72 this year and the seniors care sector is already facing unprecedented demand and difficulties. These challenges will rise dramatically over the next few decades and take a very serious toll on families and society at large.

The biggest misconception is that you don’t have to worry about your brain health or aging until you are an older adult. This is wrong. In fact, Baycrest research continues to show us that the earlier we begin to take preventative measures, the better our odds for improving outcomes for our population’s brain health.

Q: Baycrest is a global leader in brain health and aging. What is your primary research focus and what role does The Rotman Research Institute play in this process?

The Brain Project serves as a critical vehicle for fundraising in support of world-class care for older adults and research into aging and brain health being conducted at Baycrest’s world-renowned Rotman Research Institute, where our scientists and researchers are working to discover ways to delay the onset of dementia.

If we can delay the onset of dementia by just five years, we could reduce its incidence in the population by about one third.

Q: The Brain Project has raised $2.3 million to-date. How much do you hope to raise this year and where will the funds directly go?

Funds raised through the Brain Project will help our Baycrest scientists continue to advance our understanding of the best ways to delay the onset of dementia.

Q: Yonge + St. Clair is a new location for The Brain Project this year and is home to many public art initiatives. What goes into the selection process of the brain locations?

We like to partner with companies who share our vision of promoting awareness for brain health, helping to amplify our exhibit in order to reach new audiences, getting more people to think about their brain health. We are thrilled to have Yonge + St. Clair as a new location this year and can’t wait to see which artist will win the Yonge & St. Clair People’s Choice Award!

Q: Ten years from now, how far do you envision The Brain Project going? Is this an initiative you hope to execute in many cities and communities worldwide?

As an organization, Baycrest has innovated for 100 years. We’re proud to be celebrating our centennial this year. It’s hard to say what the installation will be in ten years but our vision is about the impact. We aim to make brain health top of mind, reaching more and more people – whether we are empowering them to impact their own future or the future of others by supporting initiatives like The Brain Project.

Q: What do you hope people take away from this initiative and are there resources online where people can learn more about brain health and aging?

We hope this initiative will encourage everyone to consider their own brains in much the same way we consider our hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs and overall body health. That is to say: the brain also responds positively to a healthy lifestyle, creativity and interaction. It is never too early to take action.

For more information, visit

To learn more about the unique brain sculptures we have here in the neighbourhood, CLICK HERE