“The topic of breast cancer is big and scary; it paralyzes people, and that doesn’t do any good,” explains Shaney jo Darden, founder of Keep A Breast Foundation (KAB), a nonprofit whose mission is to empower young people around the world with breast health education and support.

Shaney, a designer and artist-turned-activist, has been instrumental in changing the conversation around breast cancer with messaging that empowers people to be their own breast health advocates. Through public education campaigns, a breast self-check app, educational programming, and the Keep A Breast Give Back Grants, which financially support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) women with breast cancer, KAB is able to reach a new generation of women that may otherwise remain uninformed. Additionally, the foundation spreads awareness far and wide through its one-of-a-kind art exhibitions featuring body casts of women touched by breast cancer in some way.

Art exhibition by Keep a Breast Foundation

Keep A Breast Foundation creates beautiful, one-of-a-kind art exhibitions in cities worldwide to educate the community about breast cancer prevention and early detection.

KAB education booth

KAB’s education booths are engaging, and the organization partners with scientists and research experts to provide the most accurate information on breast cancer.

Since the inception of KAB 20 years ago, the foundation has grown organically and hosted exhibitions worldwide, including in Tokyo, Prague, New York, Los Angeles, Santiago, and now, Nashville. In celebration of KAB’s 20th anniversary, the Keep A Breast Nashville Collection features more than 80 local women’s casts, which were created by Shaney and painted by local and international artists. “It is a cross-section of badass women in Nashville. They are mothers, politicians, activists, musicians, painters, and healers,” Shaney says of the participants. “It is an honor to celebrate our 20th anniversary with such an incredible group of women.”

Casts that were made ahead of the Nashville event include a few names you might recognize, including Allison Moorer, Alyssa Rosenheck, Andra Eggleston, Fiona Prine, Jen Auerbach, Julia Sullivan, Libby Callaway, Margo Price, and Tanya Trotter. “It is my job to honor each person and make their cast something they are proud of and love,” says Shaney, who has now cast more than 1,000 women. “It is a very personal and intimate experience. Trust is such a complex, powerful word and emotion; that these women trust me to do this is the honor of my lifetime.”

Artists who painted the casts include Vadis Turner, Nashville’s I Saw The Sign, Music City Murals, New Hat Projects, and Tess Davies, whose sister is currently fighting breast cancer.

Keep A Breast Nashville Collection

Mark your calendars for the KAB Nashville Collection exhibit, which is on display at a public showing and virtually from October 2-31. Keep reading for more details.

Cast from Keep A Breast's Nashville collection

“We cry all the time,” Shaney says of the casting process. “Every castee has been touched by cancer in one way or another.”

Casts from KAB's Nashville collection

Here are some examples of what you will find (and can bid on) in KAB’s Nashville Collection.

The KAB Nashville Collection will be available October 2-31, 2020, for in-person viewing at Riverside Revival (1600 Riverside Drive, Nashville, TN 37216) daily from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. You can also view the collection virtually HERE. The casts will be auctioned off to raise funds for KAB’s grants and education and support programs. Auction dates are October 6-28, 2020, and bids can be placed HERE between those dates. Finally, there will be a virtual live-streamed event taking place on October 9, 2020, which you can learn more about HERE.

NOW! Let’s meet four women whose casts will be featured in the KAB Nashville exhibition and find out more about their experience with cancer and with KAB.

Fiona Prine

Fiona Prine is an Irish-born woman who has lived in Nashville since 1993.  Her husband, John Prine, passed away in April of this year from COVID-19. She is a mother of three and a grandmother of three. She currently oversees John’s catalog and works with Thistle Farms locally as well as with partner organizations in South America, Mexico and India. She’s also working on a new project called “Welcome My Sister,” which you can check out on her Instagram page.

What is your personal connection to cancer?

John survived both neck and lung cancer, so I know firsthand how scary a cancer diagnosis can be. The treatments are brutal, but they do save many lives. We lost so many dear, dear friends to cancer over the years. Thankfully, early detection and treatment are making a difference. My darling sister, Anne, is a breast cancer survivor. I was cast in her honor.

How did you react when you first saw your cast?

Honestly, when I first saw my painted cast, I was completely speechless; then, I cried. James Perrin has created a piece of art that speaks directly to my experience this year. Losing John made my heart open and vulnerable for all to see. The days rolling into nights and back to days is the tempo of grief … we have no control over the march of time and no control of when and how waves of grief ebb and flow. I hope people will see that James is a sensitive, intuitive and brave artist and that they love this piece as much as I do!

Describe your experience with KAB in one word.

Sisterhood.

Fiona Prine with her cast painted by James Perrin.

Fiona Prine is pictured with her cast, which was painted by James Perrin.

RELATED: An Interactive — and Timely — Art Project for ALL: ‘My View From Home’

Tanya Trotter

Tanya Trotter, along with her husband, Michael Trotter, Jr., sings and writes songs in the duo The War and Treaty. She’s mom to Antonio Blount and Legend Trotter, and she has lived just outside Nashville for two-and-a-half years. For fun, she has a pin-up t-shirt and accessory line called She Loves Vintage.

What is your personal connection to cancer?

All of my aunties, my first cousin and one of my best friends have been fighting breast cancer for years.

How does it feel to be one of the women partaking in the event?

It was imperative for me to be involved. Women all over the world need to understand the importance of putting our health first and getting our boobies checked. Keep A Breast is a great foundation with amazing information.

How do you hope people will react when they see your cast for the first time? How did you react?

I cried! I hope people will see the importance of getting checked.

Describe your experience in one word.

Phenomenal.

Tanya Trotter with her cast painted by Elisheba Israel Mrozik.

Tanya Trotter is shown with her cast, which was painted by Elisheba Israel Mrozik.

Allison Moorer

Allison Moorer is an American writer and singer/songwriter who has released 10 critically acclaimed albums. She has been published in American Songwriter, Guernica, No Depression, Lithub.com, and Bittersoutherner.com, and she has been nominated for Academy, Grammy, Americana Music Association, and Academy of Country Music Awards. She also holds an MFA in creative writing. She lives in Nashville.

What is your personal connection to cancer?

Like most everyone, I’ve had both family and friends stricken with cancer. As a woman with dense breast tissue, more than one scary mammogram result (including one which required a biopsy) and a family history of cancer, I am high-risk and feel it’s my duty not only to be very aware for myself but to also raise awareness as much as I can through whatever channels I can.

How do you hope people will react when they see your cast for the first time? How did you react?

Our casts are as unique as we are, which makes this project infinitely cool. I am so fortunate to have had mine completed by Maira Kalman, who is nothing short of legendary. That she not only painted it but included one of her trademark embroideries with the lines, “While I breathe, I hope,” just floors me. Maira is truly original and brings such a wonderful perspective to life in general. Her work is monumental, and I am honored to have worked with her on this.

How is this event changing the conversation around breast cancer?

Like our casts, our stories are unique. We never know what will make the lightbulb switch on for a person, but I do know that personal stories go a lot farther in that battle than statistics and studies. We all get caught up in this, that or the other. Something we forget to notice is how a small revelation can make a huge difference, but those small revelations change the world, one person at a time.

Describe your experience with KAB in one word.

Fun.

Allison Moorer with her cast painted by Maria Kalman.

Allison Moorer is pictured with her cast, which was painted by Maira Kalman.

Angela Pacheco

Angela Pacheco is originally from Detroit, but she arrived in Nashville five-and-a-half years ago. She leads business services for Bridgestone and has been a career-driven woman since graduating from Michigan State. “I love to travel to see friends in all the places I have lived, along with traveling to new places whenever I can,” she says. “I spend a lot of time with friends doing outdoor activities — hiking, boating and Sunday yard games. Nashville has given me the opportunity to meet the most amazing friends and build a family away from home.”

What is your personal connection to cancer?

I am a young breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with triple-positive cancer three years ago at 34 years old. It was a life-altering diagnosis that made me who I am today — stronger and dedicated to fighting this disease. I did not have breast cancer in my family, and it turns out I have no genes for the disease, yet I had nearly a 2-centimeter tumor, which I discovered myself. I am now an advocate for young women to learn their bodies and get checked early and often because this disease can strike at any age. I am here today because I knew the importance of breast exams and found my high-grade/fast-growing tumor early.

How does it feel to be one of the women partaking in this event?

Being a part of the Nashville KAB Collection gives me a sense of pride and joy. I am overwhelmed to see all that Shaney and Sarah have done to reach out to women in Nashville to create this impactful collection of art to raise awareness and get women talking. I was able to get my cast made with my breastie (breast cancer best friend) Jocelyn Limmer, and it was the first time we saw each other’s scars. This experience made me appreciate my body, what I have gone through, and how we are all beautiful regardless of shape, size or scars.

How is this event changing the conversation around breast cancer?

KAB brings us all together around art, displaying the beauty of the shape of our bodies. This collection and the event gives us a platform to talk about breast cancer prevention and early detection away from talking about the treatment and impact. Unlike many of the breast cancer organizations and events I partake in, this is an event for us all — not just breast cancer survivors. This is about women knowing their bodies and taking care of their health.

Can you give us one word to describe your experience with KAB?

Empowering.

Tell us about your cast.

I actually was matched with my artist through divine intervention and a mailing mixup. It could not have turned out better, and I was so pleased to see what came back. My artist is Lula Goce from Barcelona, Spain. She is a mural and street artist who beautifully depicts feeling through her art. Once I saw all of her art, I knew the match was meant to be as my family is from Barcelona, and I felt connected to the art and the meaning behind it.

Angela Pacheco, a breast cancer survivor, with her cast painted by Lula Goce. 

Angela Pacheco, a breast cancer survivor, is shown with her cast, which was painted by Lula Goce.

All photos courtesy of Keep A Breast. 

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