According to a 2014 World Health Organization report, breast cancer is the leading type of cancer in women, accounting for upwards of 25 percent of all cases. With numbers as staggering as these, the role Creative Cups plays in raising awareness and providing artistic expression for survivors and victims of breast cancer is crucial. Held every two years, the upcoming gala auction and reception that is going to be held on March 16 is the fifth event that features bras that have been ornately decorated and auctioned off to raise money to support the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Group.
This organization is crucial in providing comprehensive breast cancer services, support, referrals and information about this disease through the efforts of more than 100 trained volunteers. For Creative Cups cofounder Dale Flashner, who is also Adelphi University’s director of the graphic design studio, the idea to auction off decorated bras was sparked by a former student who’d gone to a similar event in Maryland back in 2007.
“I’m sitting in an art department and I have an affiliation with the breast cancer awareness department because my students designed the logo of the breast cancer hotline many years ago. I thought that I could do something like that [with bras],” she said in her office. “I don’t know what that was all about, but I thought it would be fun. I never did fundraising a day in my life and I’ve been a professor here for 32 years. I thought I’d go over to people at the breast cancer awareness department, told them about this and the rest is history.”
The first year, 257 entries were submitted. And while the process is as simple as paying a $25 fee to secure your place, the deadline is generally the prior September or October to give people from around the country time to let their creativity go wild. (This year even features an international entry from Brazil.)
The Creative Cups mission is quite labor intensive, as the work is being done by volunteers. The production process involves receiving and registering the artwork, mounting it on mannequins (which are separately ordered from New Jersey), shooting it for a coffee table book designed by Flashner’s students that is sold to raise more money for the hotline and then setting up in the ballroom for people to view and bid on. And while this year’s Creative Cups features 137 entries, Flashner never tires of people’s reactions when they take it in the first time they walk into the ballroom.
“It takes your breath away because when you walk into the room, the profusion of color is [intense] because you just can’t expect any of this. When people first come in, them going ‘Oh my God’ is all they can really say,” she explained. “Then they walk around, because you want to see everything; people will go around for about 10 minutes because they want to see what they want to bid on. There are pieces that resonate with a person or there are ones that are so out there that they connect with it as a piece of art. People can be touched by the story and want to buy it based on that.”
For the Oyster Bay native, the fact that two of her close girlfriends were undergoing double mastectomies around the time that the Creative Cups idea came up was what inspired her to become involved with the breast cancer awareness cause.
“Both my girlfriends were a part of that first event. It was because of their inspiration…they were both so strong and amazing and they were the only two that I knew going through breast cancer,” Flashner said. “I had not been networking with the breast cancer hotline because I’m a professor in the art department. I don’t work the hotline. I think this added something to my life that was very unexpected.”
NBC 4 Weekend Today co-anchor Pat Battle, an early Creative Cups supporter and a breast cancer survivor herself, is set to host the March 16 auction and reception. And with the event having raised a total of $250,000 since its inception, Flashner admits she’s seen her share of wacky bras, ranging from ones made out of money or paper pulp repurposed from old medical bills to ones crafted from rattan and deer antlers. It’s all given her a different perspective on life and the special part Creative Cups plays in people’s lives.
“The hotline and these women taught me more than I ever could have imagined about bravery. Sometimes you listen to their stories and your problems just don’t seem so important,” Flashner explained. “It’s not just about the design process, but it’s also cathartic for a lot of people. The stories and this whole experience have been unbelievable.”
The Creative Cups 2017 Gala Auction and Reception will be held on March 16 at Adelphi University’s Ruth S. Harley University Center. For more information, visit creativecups.adelphi.edu, call 516-877-4320 or go to facebook.com/adelphibreastcancerhotline.