Arts·Year in Review

6 stories from 2016 that'll give you the feels

These are some of the most uplifting videos to appear on CBC Arts this year. Grab a box of tissues and get in your feelings.

If you're crying at the end of this article, we've done our job

One of the found photographs from Zun Lee's "Fade Resistance" exhibition. Watch the emotional story behind the project. (Zun Lee)

As if 2016 wasn't draining enough, get ready for an ugly cry. These are some of the most uplifting videos to appear on CBC Arts this year — stories of how art helped Canadians face life-altering obstacles. If the mark of a good story is how it captures emotion, then these are some of the greats. Grab a box of tissues and get in your feelings.

How art is bringing one filmmaker closer to the father he barely knew

How one filmmaker got to know his late father through the secret art he left behind

5 years ago
Duration 4:32
Toronto-based filmmaker Qais Pasha didn't know his dad that well. But the 126 drawings his father left behind gave him compassion and a new understanding of his father's life 4:32

Qais Pasha's father wasn't there for his childhood. "I always thought he was a loser, a nobody," the Toronto filmmaker says in this CBC Arts short doc from July. But when Pasha's dad died, he discovered an untold story. His father was an artist, and after stumbling across a hidden stash of his drawings, he was compelled to learn more. Those drawings became part of a project; Pasha postered them all over Toronto, and if you know where to look, you'll find them on walls throughout the city.

In this film, he explains how art brought him closer to the father he barely knew.  "I'll never know why my father was the way he was. I learned that he had a difficult and complicated life and I just wish I'd been able to understand that sooner."

She had a heart attack at age 30, and now she's a world-famous painter

How a heart attack changed artist Alex Garant's life

6 years ago
Duration 4:08
Artist Alex Garant on her recovery from a heart attack, and how it provoked her decision to become an artist, a gym rat, and to face every fear. 4:08

As Toronto painter Alex Garant told CBC Arts in January: "Don't wait to do something that you love doing. There's always excuses. There will never be a right time, or a perfect time, to do anything. You don't want to be that person on your deathbed saying, 'I should have done that.' You've got to do it now."

She turned her grief into a hip-hop career

BC rapper Horsepowar transformed her grief into a joyful hip-hop career

6 years ago
Duration 3:51
In this segment, Jasleen Powar aka Horsepowar talks loss, jokes, and Hindi film. 3:51

Horsepowar, for the uninitiated, is a Vancouver rapper on the rise — but what you might not hear in her funny and fierce music is the grief that led her to becoming an artist in the first place. When she was a teenager, her brother Jason died in a motorcycle accident.

"A big saviour in my life has been writing," she told CBC Arts in July, and as she explains in this short doc, music healed her grief. "There is a little bit of Jason in me that pushes forward. And I think I'm pursuing my art for him, and myself and anyone who's dealing with grief and loss and trying to empower themselves through it all."

She beats anxiety and depression by knitting her inner demons

What do cannibals and knitting have in common? Ask artist Tracy Widdess

5 years ago
Duration 3:07
Widdess opens up about depression, C.H.U.D. and how knitting can be a life changer. 3:07

"Brutal knitting" is how B.C.'s Tracy Widdess describes her textile art. We just call it "awesome," and since she was a kid, Widdess has been creating hand-knit monsters — neon creatures that help her cope with the dark side of life.

"Making things pretty much mitigates what's going on in my head," Widdess told CBC Arts in this short doc from December. "It's pretty much the only thing that makes me feel okay and alright. I'm a person who has crazy amounts of anxiety and depression, and it's always been that way. Making work has been a way to escape from that and a way to deal with that."

Black love matters, and this artist collected 3,500 family photos to prove it

Photographer Zun Lee collected over 3,500 Polaroids of African American Families

6 years ago
Duration 3:55
Toronto-based photographer Zun Lee’s latest exhibition features more than 1,000 found Polaroid photographs of African American families that he’s collected over the past four years. 3:55

Toronto photographer Zun Lee has been collecting found photographs of black families since 2012, and in February, 3,500 images from his archive were shown at Toronto's Gladstone Hotel. "Black love and joy matters and that needs to be seen and foregrounded," he told CBC Arts.

While working on the short doc, producer Mercedes Grundy found that the artist's connection to the project runs deep. During their interview, she discovered he doesn't have family albums from his own childhood. "I realized this project is bigger — it's actually deeply personal for him."

Losing her legs couldn't stop this circus performer from getting back in the air

Losing her legs could not stop circus artist Erin Ball from getting off the ground

6 years ago
Duration 3:19
After suffering the loss of both lower legs, it was love of the circus and intense training that made Erin Ball want to carry on. 3:19

When her legs were amputated, circus artist Erin Ball thought her life was over. "Movement was such a big part of my life. I didn't see what was left," she told CBC Arts. But in this short doc from July, which features the aerial work she's developed since the accident, she says she hopes her story can help others to overcome their own setbacks, and discover that life "can be wonderful."

"I made a decision that I wanted to get out of the hospital and I wanted to live," she says. "And for me, living includes circus."


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