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Local artists raise breast cancer awareness nationally with exhibit

By Staff | Mar 23, 2018

Courtesy photo The Bodice Project features decorated plaster casts of breast cancer survivors who’ve had mastectomies. Pictured here is “Ascension,” by artist Cynthia Fraula-Hahn.

When artist and activist Cynthia Fraula-Hahn’s friend was battling breast cancer, Fraula-Hahn realized women and men undergoing mastectomies needed a pathway to accepting – and even celebrating – their bodies in the aftermath of the disease.

Impassioned with this idea, Fraula-Hahn created a sculpture of her friend by using a wrapping process with plaster-embedded gauze to create a body cast of the torso. She created several other torsos and painted and embellished them with designs to celebrate each person and their strengths. She invited other local artists to partner with breast cancer survivors to tell their stories in 3D works of art.

Now, the American Association for Cancer Research has invited The Bodice Project, Fraula-Hahn’s local nonprofit organization, to be part of its annual meeting in Chicago in April 2018.

Exhibiting at the AACR conference will afford more than 22,000 cancer researchers and the general public the opportunity to view and experience the transformative nature of The Bodice Project sculptures.

Fraula-Hahn said it wasn’t until seeing all of the artists’ pieces together at the first gallery show that she and others realized the full impact of the work. She wanted to expand the exhibit, and more artists provided compostitions.

Courtesy photo The Bodice Project features decorated plaster casts of breast cancer survivors who’ve had mastectomies. Pictured here is “Intertwined,” by artist Cynthia Fraula-Hahn.

“It’s mind-boggling, it really is-from Shepherdstown to Chicago,” said Fraula-Hahn. “This is a huge deal for us. This exhibit has a life of its own-it really does. I just had a concept.”

Fraula-Hahn said the project started out as a fundraiser for Identity Crisis, an annual event in Shepherdstown that raises money for Breast Cancer Awareness-Cumberland Valley. Someone initially suggested putting colorful mannequins in windows in town to raise awareness, according to Fraula-Hahn.

“I didn’t want to work on a mannequin, but my friend offered to let me wrap her instead,” she said. “Afterwards, she said it was such a moving experience. She had been feeling isolated and said this project gave her a sense of community. That has kept me going the whole time.”

Mary J.C.Hendrix, president of Shepherd University and a nationally recognized cancer researcher, has acknowledged the exhibit’s beauty, message and importance during exhibits at Shepherd University. Hendrix, also a board member of the AACR, asked them to send an invitation to Fraula-Hahn to bring the exhibit to Chicago for the annual meeting.

“Because Mary loved the exhibit, she wanted everyone there, which are researchers, scientists, hospitals, cancer centers, on and on-22,000-plus people-to see our work,” said Fraula-Hahn. “She wanted us to be there because it brings back the humanity into the cause of breast cancer.”

Since its inception in 2014, The Bodice Project’s mission has gained wide recognition and support throughout the region.

There will be a raffle fundraiser to help offset travel costs at Town Run Tap House and Community Pub, located at 202 E. Washington Street in Shepherdstown, from March 6 to April 7. The winner will be announced at the Tap House on April 7 before a live audience at 8 p.m. The Bodice Project’s board of directors and friends will be at Town Run Brew Pub that evening at 6:30 p.m. to meet and greet supporters.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Town Run. The Bodice Project also has a GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/TBPtoChicago. Every $10 donation earns the donor a raffle entry.

Presentations at the AACR annual meeting will cover much more than breast cancer, but Fraula-Hahn is excited to be the only art exhibit invited.

“It is a very special invitation, and we’re thrilled about it,” said Fraula-Hahn. “The Bodice Project exhibition in Chicago is not just about having an exhibit. It’s about sharing this concept with hospitals, cancer centers and communities. It’s about the interaction between the artists and the survivors, creating an impact of what breast cancer looks like through beauty. It brings the conversation to the public in a unique form.”