A new, unique and, as it turns out, very popular art project at the Hay River Regional Health Centre is marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Sherry Ringuette, left, a medical radiation technologist at the Hay River Regional Health Centre, and Rhonda Kauhausen, co-ordinator for the breast screening program, stand in front of the wall displaying Bra Art, a project for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Rhonda Kauhausen, co-ordinator for the health centre’s breast screening program which covers 13 communities, said idea of collecting Bra Art for display started with the thought that health-care workers would respond, but its popularity extended outside of the hospital.

“But as people asked if they could enter, did we say no? Absolutely not,” she said. “We’ve had men enter. We’ve had teenagers enter. We’ve had children enter.”

As of Oct. 20, there were 26 entries.

“And we’re getting entries every day and we’ve got more to come,” said Kauhausen. “So we don’t know what the number will be when it ends up, but people are submitting them and calling.”

She said they originally thought it would be really exciting to receive a half-dozen submissions.

Now, there are so many that the Bra Art is displayed on a corridor wall.

“We are very thrilled and excited by the response, absolutely,” said Kauhausen.

The bras are decorated in various ways – with feathers, fur, candy, teddy bear stickers and more – or are used as canvasses for drawing, painting, doodle art and more.

The themes include the Northern lights, children, fall colours, bees, the seasons and even the game Scrabble.

“It’s really amazing,” said Sherry Ringuette, a medical radiation technologist in the hospital’s mammography and X-ray departments.

“It’s a wide range. It’s literally art,” said Ringuette, noting there is everything from painting to arts and crafts. “It’s really neat to see everybody’s creativity come out.”

On Oct. 20 as Ringuette and Kauhausen were talking to The Hub, two more entries to the art project arrived.

Donna Dean brought in those entries, explaining she created the artwork with her daughter Taylor Price.

“It just seemed like something fun to do,” said Dean.

One of the pieces of art was based on the theme of a treasure chest, complete with sparkly toy gold.

“So treasure your chest,” Dean explained.

The other bra had a gambling theme.

That means don’t gamble with your breasts, said Dean. “Get a mammogram.”

Ringuette said the project was going to be much smaller when it started, explaining the art was to be displayed in the diagnostic imaging area before it was moved out into the corridor.

The idea for the project came from Kauhausen, who was inspired by an annual project in Edmonton during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There, bras are strung across the High-Level Bridge in a fundraiser for the Cross Cancer Institute.

“That kind of inspired us to just do something along that line, but we kind of changed it to suit more of an area. So we got to discussing about decorating bras,” she said, noting Ringuette was immediately on board with the idea and it was also supported by the hospital. “Administration definitely approved of our idea and it snowballed from there.”

Kauhausen said the goal is to bring attention to breast cancer awareness.

“We really felt that something visible would bring that awareness and also bring a respect to those that have struggled and suffered,” she said.

That awareness is also focused on screening services, such as mammography, available at the health centre.

Kauhausen said everybody has had a personal reason for what they’ve created for Bra Art, and it means something to them.

“And I think that’s projected on the art itself, which is exciting,” she said.

The Bra Art project – which will be on display until at least mid-November – also includes a competition aspect for the artwork, which are identified only by numbers. People can vote for their favourite piece of art, and the winner will receive an as yet undetermined prize.

“It’s more or less just which one they appreciate,” said Kauhausen. “It’s not one better than another, because we really feel that they’re all amazing.”

It has not been decided whether Bra Art will return next year.

“We’ve talked about that and we actually think maybe not every year, but every couple of years,” said Ringuette.

Kauhausen said it will really depend on the response of people.

“What do they want?” she said. “We don’t want it to become an every-day thing. We want it to be something special.”

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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