Rack Flack

Raising money for breast research a booby trap when nudity's involved


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breasts may hang freely in ad displays, but try getting a fundraising calendar full of bare mammaries into the hands of the breast cancer establishment.Guelph artist Sue Richards, who independently produced a calendar called The Breast Of Canada to raise awareness about monthly breast self-examination, has discovered how difficult it is to find a charity willing to accept 40 per cent of the artwork’s proceeds.

When she approached Canada’s largest breast cancer charity, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, she initially received a cordial “good luck, but we don’t have the resources to bring the calendar to market” from Mara Kovin, the organization’s national special projects manager.

Marketing director Elaine Fogel encouraged Richards to press on: “If you could take it to retail yourself and indicate that a portion of the sales are coming to the CBCF, we would, of course, be thrilled.”

Richards decided to do exactly that. She informed the foundation she would produce the calendar independently and simply hand over 40 per cent of the proceeds, no strings attached. She was told that a presentation would be made to the CEO, and if necessary, it would go to the board for approval.

Five weeks later, things didn’t look so rosy. The CBCF’s development director, Jay Hooper, told Richards that The Breast Of Canada was “important and creative,” but the foundation couldn’t attach its name to it. Hooper said that the “fundraising benefits won’t outweigh the controversy” the calendar would cause.

Hooper admits to NOW that he thought the calendar was controversial, but he denies sharing these thoughts with Richards. He also insists the breast photographs were not why the foundation rejected the calendar.

But strangely, the foundation’s CEO, Carol Seidman, has a different take. She commends the calendar’s “stunning pictures” and says her organization would now love to rekindle its relationship with Richards.

Richards says she can see why some groups might be shy and admits that the neck-to-navel breast shots of women aged 18 to 58 are “not for everyone” and are more for “hip, self-responsible women.”

But she says, “There’s certainly no nipple-tweaking or freaky activity” to make the calendar particularly controversial or offensive. The illustrations showing how to do self-examination, and black-and-white close-ups of breasts engaged in activities from nursing to rowing are meant to “demystify the female breast, not sexualize it.”

However, the foundation’s sudden change of heart is a moot point. Richards has already found a small organization in Burlington — Breast Cancer Support Services — that’s more than happy to accept the proceeds from the 2002 edition.

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