By Justine Josue and Mahreen Khan
An auction of 137 uniquely decorated brassieres will be exhibited by the project Creative Cups on March 16, to benefit Adelphi University’s breast cancer program.
Creative Cups, which is dedicated to encouraging artistic expression as a celebration of life, is the group behind the originally designed and created bras. The project’s founders welcome donated submissions from across the world. The March 16 event is the fifth since the project’s inception – oriented towards individuals who have survived from and been lost to breast cancer.
They raised nearly $75,000 at the last auction in 2015, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program. The most expensive bra sold for $7,500. This year, the director of the breast cancer program, Hillary Rutter, and the co-founder of Creative Cups, Dale Flashner, look to fundraise $100,000 at the biennial Gala reception and auction.
“The first year, which was 2009, we got 257 creative cups from across the country,” Flashner said. “This year, we actually have an entry from Brazil.” In previous years, as many as 500 locals attended. This year, hundreds of Garden City community members – and beyond, are expected at the event.
Inspired by two of her closest friends who underwent double mastectomies after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Flashner worked to conceive the idea in 2007. In 2009, her collaboration with Rutter yielded the first-ever Creative Cups event. The initiative affords artists a sense of expression and catharsis, with proceeds directly benefiting the 37-year-old breast cancer program.
“The need for this organization seems to have grown since I’ve been here,” Rutter said. “I think it’s really a lifeline for many women. It’s much less frightening when you can talk to other people who understand what you’re going through.”
The breast cancer program began at the Adelphi School of Social Work in 1980.
“When we started the program, you didn’t say cancer, you didn’t say breast cancer,” public relations consultant for the program, Lyn Dobrin, said. “Cancer – it was the ‘C’ word.”
To eliminate the stigma surrounding women’s issues and breast cancer, raise awareness and push for early prevention and detection, Dobrin says, the group took its cue from the AIDS activists.
“We were some of the early ‘nasty’ women and it just got out there,” she said. Dobrin says women, their families and their friends need to be able to talk about what they’re going through when it comes to illness – not feel obliged to whisper and endure shame.
Carol Silano, who has been a hotline volunteer for about two and a half years, created the “Downton Abbey” bra, which was among one of the more than a dozen exhibited at the March 3 “Highlights from Creative Cups 2017” sneak preview. She said she was inspired by the strength of the show’s female characters. Silano, herself, is a breast cancer survivor who – in the matter of one year – was diagnosed, operated on and faced with chemotherapy and radiation.
“My grandmother, it turns out, died of breast cancer – or she had breast cancer and she died as a result of complications. She died about 50-something years ago and I never knew until a few years ago because people didn’t talk about that,” Silano said.
She says her familial history with the disease, which she only recently learned about, has helped her realize the importance of self-exams.
“They didn’t talk about cancer at all. And nine years ago, when my mother had breast cancer – she was 87 – it was more acceptable to talk about and that’s when she told me about my grandmother. So now it’s kind of come around to the point that not only can we talk about it, but we should talk about it.”
Silano said that though she is not an artist by any means, she enjoys sewing and more importantly, felt a connection to the movement. The final brassiere she created, which took her many laborious hours of fine detail, is part of a much bigger movement that not only works to benefit the local community, but also to build a sense of community between men and women about women’s issues.