susan stanton

Art with Compassion

An Abington art student combines her craft with a healing practice to empower breast cancer patients.
By: Regina Broscius
Delicate fabrics and soft lighting stand in stark contrast to the sterile file cabinets filled with doctors' notes and health insurance forms in Penn State Abington student Susan Stanton's workspace.

While pursuing her art degree, Stanton works at a boutique that sells lingerie and prostheses for women in various stages of cancer treatment. She found herself drawn to the clients who came to Jay Ann Intimates for breast form fittings.

"The loss of a body part can be traumatic and life altering, but it is not their identity and does not define them," she said.

Stanton examines a breast form in a fitting room

Susan Stanton, examining a breast form in a fitting room at Jay Ann Intimates, said her art background informs the practice of fitting clients for prostheses.

Credit: Regina Broscius

Stanton found mentors in the shop's mastectomy fitters and enrolled in industry-mandated classes. She even traveled to Detroit to study body and chest wall casting, which aids in the creation of custom breast forms, before earning her mastectomy fitter certification in 2013.

Stanton says that being an artist informs her fitting practice.

"It's a very visual process. I have to be creative when evaluating a woman's surgical site and making decisions about the type of prosthetic," she says. "Observing and assessing what will work visually and comfort wise for balance and symmetry is a key part of fitting."

Stanton, who at one point considered a nursing career, describes her work as fulfilling. 

"It is a great feeling when my clients leave the shop a little more confident in their skin. In our society, so much emphasis is placed on outer beauty and youth. The women I meet are a constant reminder that true beauty radiates from the inside."—Susan Stanton

Susan Stanton practices print making at an art residency.

Susan Stanton spent a week in Maine for an art residency with Abington students and faculty.

Credit: Penn State

While working at the boutique, Stanton also flourished at Abington. She was one of twenty-four students hand-picked by faculty to enroll in a groundbreaking multidisciplinary course, and her art earned a place in the permanent collection at Abington—"a place that is very special and close to my heart," she says. 

Stanton also accompanied Yvonne Love, assistant professor of art, and four Abington students on a weeklong residency in Maine. They lived and created communally at a former New York art dealer's home and soaked up knowledge about careers and the gallery scene from their hostess and Love. 

"Every learning experience helps me develop my own voice and presence as an artist."—Susan Stanton

Where Will an Art Degree Take You?

A report from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project explodes myths about the career prospects for arts alumni:

More than 75 percent start their own businesses; 
Median annual income is $45,000 per year; 
70 percent report employment in the arts;  and job demand for artists is expected to increase 12 percent through 2018.

Visit the art program's alumni page to see where the art degree takes Abington graduates.