A flower-shaped sculpture made up of the ties and bras of breast cancer survivors and their supporters is now on display at the San Antonio International Airport.

Commissioned by Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas and created by local students, Don’t Leave it to Chance is meant to spark conversations and save lives.

Throughout October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, visitors will see the installation near the Terminal B baggage claim. With the center of the flower evoking the shape of a breast, the work is meant to encourage cancer prevention screening.

In late 2021, Methodist officials commissioned the art piece from SAY Sí students and partnered with the airport after learning that pandemic-era barriers had depressed breast cancer screenings by 87%.

On Tuesday, officials with the faith-based, not-for-profit healthcare organization joined airport officials, SAY Sí staff and the student artists who created the piece to unveil it and emphasize its message that anyone can get breast cancer and that regular screenings can save lives.

The drastic reduction in breast cancer screenings means “too many people died of breast cancer who shouldn’t have died, and too many people went through much tougher treatments that they shouldn’t have to go through,” said Jaime Wesolowski, Methodist Healthcare Ministries president.

To kick off the project, Methodist set up donation bins across the airport and cancer treatment clinics in San Antonio, asking breast cancer survivors and supporters to donate their bras and ties. Students with SAY Sí then took the donated items and worked to create the installation. 

SAY Sí is a nonprofit arts program for high school and middle school students from marginalized communities of color in San Antonio. Students participate in a variety of artistic projects to influence change, including game design, culinary arts, digital music composition and journalism. 

From left to right: SAY Sí visual arts instructor Michael Guerra Foerster; artists Mia Perez, 16; Haley Cruz, 17; Sophia Stephen, 16; Sophia Tyler Garcia, 16; and SAY Sí visual arts instructor Ashley Perez at the San Antonio International Airport Tuesday. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Four students began working on the sculpture in March. Their efforts included artistic design and execution, plus research that included hearing from breast cancer survivors.

Haley Cruz, a junior at John Paul Stevens High School, said she and her fellow artists want people to notice the use of ties, which represents men’s chance of developing breast cancer.

“It’s not only women,” said Cruz, although “that’s mainly what people would think.”

She also pointed out that they made one of the eight petals pink to represent the fact that one out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. 

After October, the piece will be moved to a location yet to be determined.

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. A 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, her work has been recognized by the Texas Managing Editors. She previously worked...