When Cathy Smith-Brzeczkiewicz and her daughters first envisioned a giant-sized bra for breast cancer awareness, they didn’t imagine ArtPrize and the resulting outpour of attention and support they would receive. “Embracing with Strength and Grace,” the largest bra in the United States, represents breast cancer awareness, strength and support from family and friends, and positivity through the journey.
Smith-Brzeczkiewicz, a Saginaw native, has owned her own business designing and fabricating window treatments for 35 years, while raising her daughters and family. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer over 30 years ago and persevered; however, sadly passed away last year to brain cancer. Smith-Brzeczkiewicz herself was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 years ago and fought through. The bra (made out of 11 shower curtains) is in memory of her mother.
The piece’s inspiration arises from the strength and grace Smith-Brzeczkiewicz’s mother showed throughout her cancer journey, and thus passed on to her daughter and her granddaughters. She was an uplifting force of the family and a true role model. Smith-Brzeczkiewicz envisioned the bra’s clasp and straps to signify support from friends and family throughout the cancer journey and fight.
“The bra is a representation of what it means to make it through cancer. It is big, shocking, overwhelming, and its beauty represents the person facing it head on,” she explains.
On a daily basis Smith-Brzeczkiewicz uses life long advice given to her from her mother: “It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it; you can’t let it get us down, you can beat this,” beams Smith-Brzeczkiewicz. This positive outlook is what she hopes to bring to the community during ArtPrize. The piece has touched so many lives already and brought the community of Grand Rapids (and visitors of ArtPrize) together in harmony to empathize and support one another. Smith-Brzeczkiewicz humbly smiles, “This is not just a bra on a building; I feel like I have already won [ArtPrize]—this has resonated with so many people.”
After ArtPrize, the bra will be donated to the American Cancer Society permanently, proudly acting as a sort of “mascot” for breast cancer awareness. The bra will tour different events, like Bras Across the Grand and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer—both in October. For more information, voting, and location of “Embracing with Strength and Grace” visit the ArtPrize site entry.
What cancer awareness initiatives does your community participate in?
Photo credit: Kristin Coppens