Grassy Knolls by Jeremy Grand.
Breast cancer survivors and their family and friends unleashed their creative juices to make artistic masterpieces for a good cause.
Creative Cups, or ordinary bras turned into works of wearable art, are to be auctioned off at Adelphi University March 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. to benefit the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program.
As many Long Islanders know, the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program has been helping women, and men, with breast cancer and their families through free services for nearly 30 years. It is supported by major fundraising efforts but relies on a yearly $300,000 state grant to stay afloat. The grant, which the program has relied on for more than two decades, has been completely eliminated from Governor David Paterson's budget.
Adelphi alum Beth Tenser, a graphic artist who now lives in Baltimore, first brought the Creative Cups idea to Hillary Rutter's attention. Rutter serves as director of the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program.
"Creative Cups has touched off something wonderful in many people. They took so much time creating something special and we are delighted with the beauty and wit that is expressed," Rutter said.
The bras were made by mothers, and fathers, grandparents and granddaughters, sisters, nieces, godparents, friends and breast cancer survivors; by children and teenagers, students and teachers, co-workers; sororities, sports teams and art classes all over the country.
Hicksville sisters Ann, Stefanie and Joanna Szczesniak also joined the effort. Although breast cancer did not strike their immediate family specifically, the siblings lost a brother and their mother to other forms of cancer.
Ann Szczesniak created A Basketful of Strawbrarries. "Strawberries represent the cycle of life. They are a vibrant red and sweet. The beauty of the fruit is amazing," she said. "It is such a delicate fruit yet very strong. Strawberries grow low to the ground and must endure all the hazards and wonders of nature."
Ann said her bra is dedicated to her mother, Sophie, who overcame many obstacles in her life both emotionally and medically. "She had to endure the worst fear every mother has, watching her son succumb to cancer. She was my brother's lifeline until the day he passed away. He kept hanging on until she told him it was okay for him to go," she said, adding, "As if that wasn't enough for her to endure, only one year later she was diagnosed with colon cancer, which had metastasized to the liver and lungs. She still remained strong, loving and sweet until she passed away seven months later ... She was my rock, my foundation and my source of love, kindness and compassion."
When she looks at her Basketful of Strawbrarries, Ann said she sees "the fruit as delicate as she was during her last days. The bold red color as she was strong and passionate about life and the sweetness of the fruit as she was the kindest and most compassionate person I ever knew."
For her bra, Stefanie Szczesniak focused on "Cinderella. "She is the perfect princess. She lives a life full of happiness, health and love. It's every girl's dream to grow up, meet prince charming, and live happily ever after and I believe that you can," said Stefanie, who created Bibbidi Bobbidi Boobs. "It symbolizes that dream and no matter what obstacles one may encounter in life, such as breast cancer, if you believe, then you can fight it. Just remember, 'a dream is a wish your heart makes.'"
Joanna Szczesniak also went down the fairytale route, referencing the song lyrics from Beauty and the Beast, "just a little change, small to say the least, both a little scared, neither one prepared" for her creation Boobies and the Beast.
"Breast cancer is the beast that every woman fears. No one is ever prepared for such a disease and the battle that comes with it; but just like in the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast, we can overcome that fear of the beast. We can conquer the beast," said Joanna, who added that the goal of her bra was to create something that could inspire hope. "The beast in the story eventually becomes gentle and is no longer viewed as a monster; the disease as well will slowly change forms and become less threatening. Our hope is to find a cure. It's a 'tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme,' boobies and the beast," said Joanna.
Although breast cancer has not directly affected him, Hicksville native Jeremy Grand felt the need to get involved as a means of honoring the women in his life. "My reasoning and inspiration for doing this project isn't because of anyone in my life who has suffered from breast cancer, but instead for all of the influential women in my life who have shaped me into a better person," he said.
To do so, Grand created Grassy Knolls.
"A knoll is a small natural hill, and is usually grassy. This particular set of knolls are themselves grassy, but the reasoning behind it goes a bit further than natural land formations. The thought of nature and the human form is of course relative, but often times the most beautiful things found in nature are right in front of our faces," Grand said, adding, "I created "Grassy Knolls" after a few thoughts on the form, relating the form of breasts with those found in the natural world, and I found the image of a small grassy hill with wildflowers to be a pretty and tranquil one, one where any person would want to relax and sense all things nature. This goes to those women in someone else's life who have been an inspiration to someone, except with one major difference. I wanted to do my part in keeping the grass and trees and flowers and women growing for an eternity."
Adelphi University students, faculty, staff and professors also came out in full force for this project as did the university's Student Art League, Dance Team and members of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority. Additionally, Adelphi social work interns (2008-2009) at the Adelphi Breast Cancer Support Program created a bra as did Adelphi Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program employee Jeanne Berkowitz, who chose to create a ceramic leather-look bra, Tough Support, to symbolize a woman's psyche. In total, more than 300 people, working alone or in groups, joined the Creative Cups effort; 247 Perfect Bras have already been created.
Hailing from all over New York, including Long Island, Westchester, Ellenville, Rochester, Canandaigua, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Harpursville, Watertown, Manhattan, Astoria, Bronx, Forest Hills, Flushing, Middletown and Scarsdale, six bras were also from Florida, 22 from Maryland, three from Michigan, three from Virginia, two from Pennsylvania, two from Georgia, two from New Jersey, and one each from New Hampshire, Connecticut, Indiana, Nevada, Ohio and Texas.
"This is the first year that we have done this. When we started planning it a year ago, we didn't know that the governor was going to eliminate us from his budget," Rutter said. "So now, instead of helping us to grow, as we have every year, the money raised from this will help us to stay alive. That is why we are hoping that the public will respond by coming to the event and bidding on the bras. And even if they are unable to attend, perhaps they can support us by buying the book that is being produced of all the bras or just making a contribution."
Auction tickets are $50 and $25 for students. For more information or to make a reservation, visit www.adelphi.edu/nysbreastcancer or call 800-877-8077. Please note that tickets will not be mailed. They will be waiting for pickup the night of the event at the registration table.