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Breast of Canada Beautiful calendar raises awareness about breast cancer

The Ontarion

Written by Emily Parsons
October 11 - 17 2001, Arts and Culture

Breast health education. They may not be the most exciting words in the world, but they do happen to be very important, and a Guelph artist/entrepreneur, Sue Richards, is doing her part to make them interesting and accessible.

Richards dreamt up the Breast of Canada calendar in January of 2001. She decided to make the calendar after she was walking her dog one day and was almost hit by a car. (Her dog was not so lucky, but is fine now). While taking to a friend the following day Richards said, "I feel really compelled to do something really important and I'd like to do something with women this time." In her previous work, Richards has often focused on children, and other groups of people. "For whatever reasons" says the artist, "I've never exclusively worked with women before."

In the past few years, many organizations have put out calendars featuring nude people. Richards followed the story of a group of women in Salt Spring Island who created a calendar to raise funds in order to save a particular tract of land there. So when her friend suggested she do something about breasts, Richards says she thought , "That would be great, yeah...I could make a breast calendar!" The idea had been sitting in the back of her mind for some time. When she talked to other people about it , they agreed that it was a good idea.

Richards had three goals for the Breast of Canada calendar. Her primary goal was to "inspire women to practice breast health", she states. The calendar is an education tool, with comprehensive guide on how to examine one's breast properly. Certain dates are even marked, reminding women to perform these examinations.

Another goal as to promote and foster positive body image body image among women. They are "everyday, ordinary, Canadian women", says Richards, of the calendar models, women who range in age from 18 to 58.

Melanie Gillis, a Guelph Artist, did the photographs. When it came time to finding an artist to work with, Gillis was the first person who came to Richards' mind. "Her photography is stunning," she explains.

Richards also hopes to raise the profile of the issues of breast health. "In the larger scale sort of world view, it would be nice if that became a priority; that women's health, women's breast health was an important feature for everyone to consider," she says.

This is why Richards has decided to donate 40 percent of the net profits to Breast Cancer Support Services in Burlington. It was difficult to pick one group, as there are many in Canada, but Richards felt that the BCSS's goals were similar to her own; "They have a very proactive and engaging...breast health education program that they do a tremendous amount of outreach with, and they are trying to expand that outreach to cover the entire country. So, I l liked that."

It can be very difficult for an artist to use the nude female body in artwork without it becoming sexualized. Mainstream media often uses the female nude to sell whatever product is in the advertisement. Richards' calendar changes that. Here , the female nude is used to educate, and to send a message. "there was never a point where (Melanie and I) looked at an image and thought "No, that won't work. That's inappropriate'," says Richards.

Richards says the modeling was more of a sharing experience than trying to sell something, "(It's really up to the viewer) to tell me whether you think it is a commercial product or whether you think it is an educational tool."

Richards will be at a display in the University Centre, in conjunction with the Wellness Centre, on October 17,18,19 and 22. Be sure to stop by and see the Breast of Canada calendar. If you just can't wait that long, check out the website at www.breastofcanada.com. It contains information about breast health and details on how to order the calendar.