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The Bra Project: Supporting breast cancer awareness through creativity

Women’s Center 6th annual Bra Project used works of art to raise money to give mammograms to low-income women

“You’re a rockstar, 71,” musician Rocci Johnson, co auctioneer for the annual Bra Project, tells a successful bidder at the light-hearted fund raiser and breast cancer awareness event Friday night.

Held at the Art Source Gallery downtown, the Bra Project hosted more than 50 men and women who came to view and bid on uniquely created bras and bra-related artwork in honor of breast cancer awareness month. All proceeds from the sixth annual silent and live auction will provide mammograms for uninsured and low-income women in the community through St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI).

According to Lindsey Matson, Women’s Center program assistant, the Bra Project began as a response to the lack of community events supporting breast cancer awareness. In September, the Women’s Center called on faculty, staff, students and the public to produce original bras to be auctioned at the event. The final 46 pieces were designed by local artists and non-artists with a variety of inspirations.

While folk musician Rochelle serenaded the crowd, guests enjoyed catering by Smoky Mountain Pizza and perused the silent auction items. Lyndsey Evans and Katherine Mills, inspired by the flower power 60s era, constructed Groovy for your Boobie, a plain white bra accented with brightly colored hearts and flowers.

ZACH GANSCHOW/ THE ARBITER

ZACH GANSCHOW/THE ARBITER

Artist Amanda Pena used her sweet tooth to create her Better than Chocolate while Chris Zahn fashioned wine corks into a bra entitled Corks for a Cure. Sarah Crawford’s painting, Boise State Broncos, featured an orange bra with the Bronco logo. Adriane Bang, interim director of the Women’s Center, crafted a shadowbox filled with trinkets and a mini paper bra. Bang’s mother inspired the project, which she named Grow.

“She has never experienced breast cancer, but I think anytime we talk about issues that impact women, and we hear artists’ stories about how their mothers, sisters, friends, aunts and lovers have been impacted, we naturally think about the women in our lives,” Bang said.

The live auction kicked off at 7 p.m., hosted by Johnson, owner of Hannah’s and lead singer for The Rocci Johnson Band and Leslie Webb, assistant vice president for Student Affairs. Members of the sororities Alpha Chi Omega and Alpha Xi Delta modeled the bras.

Monique Johns, grant writer for the Girl Scouts of Silver Sage Council, fashioned a bra out of pink fabric, ribbon, a white flower and the word “Home.”

“I’m not an artist so it was really practical,” she said.

Her idea developed from the memory of the first time a boy touched her bra.

“I put together a story that actually happened when I was 10-years-old,” she said.

Artist Amber Grubb’s two photographic representation pieces Cage Free and Free Range began the auction.

“I thought it would be a little bit different than creating a bra,” Grubb said. “I decided pictures would be more appropriate.”

Her artwork featured women in motion, their breasts covered by ivy leaves and red feathers. Bras with themes ranging from sock monkeys, camouflage, flamingos, owls, baseball and the 1968 erotic science fiction film Barberella colored the live auction.

ZACH GANSCHOW/ THE ARBITER

ZACH GANSCHOW/ THE ARBITER

Johnson and Webb humored the crowd with anecdotes, jokes and stories behind the auctioned bras.

“No, it’s not gonna be a dinner bell,” Johnson told Jamie Lange, Women’s Center social services coordinator, when she joked about the metal construction of the Heavy Duty Bra.

Owner of the Art Source Galley, Zella Bardsley, created the Heavy Duty Bra, the hit of the evening, which sold for $225. Bardsley uses her occupation to support of the event’s cause.

“I can contribute through my art,” she said.

Some artists used their designs to promote ideas. Emily Ryan’s Radica and Doodica used the idea of conjoined sock monkey twins to express radical and liberal feminism.

“They both agree that sisterhood is powerful; both agree patriarchy has to end,” model Emily Kudo, a freshman human resource major, said.

Boise resident Debbie Love of Girl Scouts of Silver Sage Council came in support of Johns and artists Paige Weber.

“I see it (the Bra Project) bringing women and men together,” she said.

Bang admires the passion of the artists.

“It’s such an honor to witness the stories of amazing women and how breast cancer has personally impacted their lives,” she said.

St Luke’s MSTI Patient Navigator, Jill Winschel, expressed her gratefulness to the crowd.

“You’re paying things forward,” she said.

More than 190,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, according to the National Cancer Institute. Last year, MSTI provided 300 women with mammograms. According to costhelper.com, mammograms range from $80 – $200. One member of the site claims she paid $704 for a mammogram in Idaho in March 2009. An informational table at the event provided details on breast cancer self exams and pamphlets on MSTI and its services.

“Detecting breast cancer is the key piece of the cure puzzle,” Bang told guests.

Janet Summers, Women’s Center administrative assistant, purchased Radica and Doodica and Brandi Benson’s Innocence, made in honor of her daughter who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

“There’s real heart and a lot of emotion behind a lot of the bras that are submitted,” Summers said.

Last year, Summer attended the event with Roxanne Gunner, a former professor in the College of Applied Technology. Gunner died of breast cancer in May 2009. Gunner’s friend Julie Gerrard created a hand sewn black and lace bra, It’s Not All Black and White, in her memory.

“It’s the people that are touched by tragedy that reach out to other people,” Summers said.

2 Comments on The Bra Project: Supporting breast cancer awareness through creativity

  1. Carole Faylor // Oct 29, 2009 at 4:28 am //

    Terrific article- my mom just went through a scary time like this, and I'm glad BSU supports this cause.

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