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Exhibit fights cancer with art

Photos courtesy Krista Hartley

The Columbus Arts Ball’s Courage Unmasked event, held at the Bluestone in downtown Columbus Saturday night highlighted several national artists and their renditions of “cancer artwork.” The Columbus Arts Ball was created in 2009 by Ryan Hartley, with the goal of bringing awareness to notable causes in the community and to showcase artwork that is available in Columbus. This year’s event was created to support cancer awareness and was motivated by personal interest.

“We chose cancer this year after my co-owner, Randy Haffey’s nephew was diagnosed this past year with the disease,” Hartley said.

Five hundred guests were invited to join in supporting the fight against head and neck cancer through a silent auction, live entertainment and an unveiling of “cancer artwork” created by artists from across the nation.

The event took the form of a masquerade ball, reverberating the feel of the main artistic presentation. It featured live entertainment by bands and artists who have been affected by the cause. These included musical performances by Six Panel Driver and the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus and dance performances by Diamond Dance Fitness. Also featured was a live silent auction of Ohio State and Big Ten memorabilia, gift baskets and other assorted items.

Proceeds from the event contributed to Joan’s Fund, an endowment fund at OSU’s Comprehensive Cancer Center James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.

Joan Bisesi, a victim of tongue cancer, began the search for a way her battle could serve others before passing away in 2001. Now, the OSU James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute houses The Joan Bisesi Fund for Head and Neck Oncology Research.

Bisesi’s mother, Leah Levy, said that so far, Joan’s Fund has contributed close to $700,000 to the education and research of head and neck cancers. The Courage Unmasked event will further contribute to this cause.

“It is so amazing that an artist can take something representing so much pain and anguish and turn it into something that is a true work of beauty and hope,” Levy said.

The artwork displayed was described as both unusual and inspirational.

Every art piece incorporated, in some manner, the radiation mask of a head and neck cancer survivor from the OSU James Cancer Hospital. The radiation masks require patients to be bolted down to the radiation table, with a fitted mesh plastic covering their head, neck and shoulders.

Masks incorporated several art materials and were presented in several different ways, but each mask told a story – a story of survival, hope and inspiration, as was the case with tonsil cancer survivor Dave McCauslen. His mask was created by his niece Denise Morrison Kanir, OSU alumna in journalism and graphic design, her husband Edward Kanir and their daughter Mary Lynne Kanir.

McCauslen’s transformation was displayed in the piece of art designed from his radiation mask, which was inspired by a butterfly’s cocoon. His mask is titled, “Transformation.”

“I went from old Dave, to new Dave,” McCauslen said.

Dave McCauslen cited his wife, Christine McCauslen, as his primary source of motivation, strength and hope. She not only played the role of the wife of a victim, but an artist whose work was on display at the event, he said.

Christine McCauslen said inspiration for her husband’s mask came from the relationship she has with her loved ones.

“Loved ones who act as caregivers have a unique perspective,” she said. “Every morning we put on a mask of bravery to hide our feelings of fear and sadness. We have to keep it together so our loved ones can lean on us. Then, in the evening, we remove our masks and summon the strength for whatever tomorrow may bring.”

The masks created will be auctioned at a gala taking place in October. The proceeds from the auction will directly benefit Joan’s Fund for Head and Neck Oncology Research at the OSU James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research institute.

The hosts of the event included Monica Dan of Channel 4, Jimmy Jam of WNCI and Dimitrious Stanley, former Buckeye wide receiver and Channel 6 personality.

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