An Arts-Based Educational Exhibit on Menopausal Hot Flashes

Janet S. Carpenter, PhD, RN, FAAN; Mark Kesling, BS, MS; Karen K. Schmidt, MSN, RN


Menopause. 2019;26(9):1062-1067. 

In This Article


Science and Symbolism in the Exhibit

The exhibit creates an environment where the public is immersed in accurate information about hot flashes, the cardinal symptom of menopause.[1,16] We estimate that the resulting exhibit represents findings from over 500 scientific studies conducted by nurses, anthropologists, epidemiologists, physicians, psychologists, and others. Studies contained within The North American Menopause Society position statements on the hormone and nonhormone management of hot flashes[9,10] are included in this estimate. References to support the science underlying each piece are too numerous to include here; however, in Table 1, we provide examples of representative information sources.

The overall exhibit is circular as a symbol of femininity and wholeness. There is an inner circle for a central exhibit space and an outer circle consisting of a storage area and entrance and exit hallways. There are crossbars for hanging exhibit pieces, lighting, and channeling electrical power. The central exhibit space does not have a clear path from one end to another. The intent is for attendees to wander through the central exhibit in symbolism of the meandering paths that many women take in their search to find information and treatments for bothersome symptoms.

Inside the central exhibit space, there are seven main exhibit pieces (Table 1). Seven symbolizes one piece for each year that women experience hot flashes (on average). Six of the pieces contain three-dimensional elements and one is a film. All pieces are based on scientific evidence and artistic symbolism. For example, ''Hot Flashes in Different Cultures'' (Table 1 and Figure 1) is based on evidence from epidemiological surveys and anthropological studies describing interindividual variation in hot flashes. In particular, work by Dr. Lynette Leidy-Sievert has shown that Bangladeshi women experience hot flashes on the top of their heads, whereas Mexican women experience hot flashes as a sticky sweat on the backs of their neck.[41–43] Other women feel hot flashes from their chests up to their faces. This type of explanation is part of the written descriptions that accompany the exhibit art. We include this work as an example from the exhibit because to date, public feedback indicated this piece is a favorite. Because of its popularity, we used the conceptual graphic illustration (Figure 1) to build it full scale (Figure 2).

Figure 1.

Concept graphic of exhibit piece titled ''Hot Flashes in Other Cultures.'' This is a conceptual rendering created by Brittany Harvey. Flowers depict where women in different cultures feel hot flashes. Women in Bangladesh feel them on the top of their head. Women in Mexico feel them on the back of their necks. Women in the United States and Europe feel them from their chest to their faces. © 2018 The Trustees of Indiana University.

Figure 2.

Photo of full-scale exhibit piece titled ''Hot Flashes in Other Cultures.'' This is an actual full-scale version of the exhibit piece created and photographed by Janet S. Carpenter, Indianapolis, IN. © 2018 The Trustees of Indiana University.

The exhibit logo mimics the round exhibit shape (Figure 3). A woman's profile is embedded in the red hot flash flames. The blue edges are symbolic of cupped hands that are holding space for women. The edges are open to symbolize the flow of new information and new experiences happening inside the exhibit.

Figure 3.

Exhibit logo. This is the exhibit logo created by Bridget Gurtowsky, Gurtowsky Graphics, Indianapolis, IN. The exhibit logo mimics the round exhibit shape, symbolizes femininity, the flaming heat of hot flashes, and openness to new information and experiences. © 2018 The Trustees of Indiana University.