Best of 2017

From inspiring art kids to bold provocateurs, these were your favourite CBC Arts stories of 2017

This year, we needed art more than ever — and we're guessing you probably felt the same. These are the videos and articles you watched, read and shared the most.

These are the videos and articles you watched, read and shared the most this year

(CBC Arts)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...OK, it was mostly the worst of times.

It goes without saying that 2017 was a strenuous year. That meant we needed art more than ever — and we're guessing you felt the same. In a year that constantly made us want to look away from whatever was happening, we turned our eyes toward artists instead, whether they were boldly confronting sociopolitical issues or giving us a welcome dose of escapism.

These are the videos and articles you watched, read and shared the most in 2017.

To Watch

In this video, you'll meet Callum Donovan Grujicich in his studio and on one of his foraging trips with his brother — and see why the 12-year-old's sculptures are turning heads. 2:58

You might find this kid's art pretty scary, but he politely disagrees — 'I had to figure out how to make them because I'd never seen anything like this before'

Callum Donovan Grujicich is 12 years old. He prefers making art to explaining it, and he's completely aware that you might find his own artworks kind of creepy. But they're not at all frightening to him. They're the result of experimenting, scavenging for materials, using his imagination and learning how to express himself through his art (he's self-taught).

The dolls that Callum makes — or "figurative sculptures" as he prefers to call them — are detailed pieces that evoke storybook worlds and rich symbolism. But Callum would rather not speak to meaning in his work when people ask him. He says, "I want people to decide what they think it means, instead of me telling them."

Read more about this video by Priscilla Galvez and Jeff Pavlopoulos.


Toronto-based artist Callen Schaub invites us into his studio to see how he uses swinging troughs, paint can pendulums, and bicycle parts to create his signature abstract paintings. 4:39

These abstract paintings are unbelievably satisfying — Abstract artist Callen Schaub put down his paintbrush and picked up his...bicycle?

Toronto-based artist Callen Schaub's paintings seem to defy gravity. Colours burst from the centre of the image, and paint drips down every edge of the canvas. If you look at them and ask yourself how these explosions of acrylic paint could have been made, you wouldn't be alone.

Luckily for us, Schaub isn't shy about his techniques, which are stunning performances in themselves. He's invented his own homemade devices that include swinging troughs, paint can pendulums and bicycle parts that help him create his signature works.

Read more about this video by Mercedes Grundy.

Artist Ella Cooper on why she created her Ecstatic Nudes series. 3:33

These photos of nude black women in the Canadian landscape are here to question our assumptions — Artist Ella Cooper wants to subvert and empower through a photographic exploration of black joy

Ella Cooper is many things. She's an interdisciplinary artist and educator, working in both photography and video, as well as being the founder of Black Women Film! Canada. What she is not, however, is a boudoir photographer. In fact, she had never taken nude photos prior to this body of work — until, when thinking about Canadian art history, she identified an absence of black female bodies in the visual language.

"When you think of Canada's national identity and what that looks like, I often think of the Group of Seven, moose, Canadian mounties," Cooper explains. "Rarely do I see black women depicted in the Canadian landscape."

Read more about this video by Lucius Dechausay.

Troy Moth takes us inside his incredible photograph of a bear at a landfill. 1:25

'This is the most heartbreaking image I've ever made' — Inside Troy Moth's photograph of a bear in front of a garbage fire

When B.C.-based photographer Troy Moth visited a landfill in Northern Ontario to work on a documentary film, he had no idea that he would take one of the most poignant photographs of his life there. The photograph Moth took that day shows a bear standing motionless in front of a pit at the landfill waiting for a garbage fire to go down.

When Moth posted the photo — which he titled "Invisible Horseman" — on his Instagram, he described the feelings that the image brings out for him in the caption, saying: "This is the most heartbreaking image I've ever made. I teared up when shooting it, again when editing it and on several occasions just thinking about it."

Read more about this video by Mercedes Grundy.

Teen artist Evan Sharma opens up to CBC Arts about his painting practice, the importance of finding a work/life balance and how he feels about eyes. 3:14

Meet the 13-year-old prodigy already painting his way to greatness — Teenage artist Evan Sharma's will make your day with his "vibrant impressionism"

Evan Sharma was 10 years old when saw the "Mona Lisa" for the first time. He was transported and fascinated by how such a small painting could have such a massive effect on the people who see it. He also took away the experience of seeing art up close, admiring every brushstroke.

Three years later, Sharma has become a prodigious painter. He makes bold portraits, calling his style "vibrant impressionism" — a reflection of the way he sees the world and his own inner emotional life. He's had no formal training, yet he's already being compared to the greats. And he's got an incredible sense of priorities for somebody who's just entered his teens: as he explains in the video above, he's deliberately kept up with his skiing and sailing, keeping himself, as he puts it, "multi-versed."

Read more about this video by Priscilla Galvez and Jeff Pavlopoulos.

To Read

Downtown eastside children and youth were honored with drums and other gifts (Trevor Jang)

How to be an ally during pow wow season — Catherine Hernandez and Waawaate Fobister share advice for non-Indigenous folks joining in the celebrations

With pow wow season finally upon us, hundreds of Indigenous folks are packing up provisions, beading and re-beading regalia and heading to the many gatherings across Turtle Island to celebrate who they are. This guide is a list of reminders for allies like myself, who don't want to be that ignoramus who is so overwhelmed by their own racism that they travel from booth to booth, from dancer to dancer making inappropriate remarks and gestures.

I have enlisted the help of my dear friend WaawaateFobister — Anishnaabe playwright and performer behind the multiple Dora Award-winning play Agokwe — to generously offer his advice to non-Indigenous folks. He and his extremely talented family dances the usual pow wow circuit every year from traditional gatherings to competitive events, so here are a few great tips for visitors based on his own pet peeves.

Read more

Gigi Gorgeous: The Canadian transgender star who took over Sundance — Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple has taken Gorgeous' inspirational story to the big screen​

In December 2013, Gigi Gorgeous sat in her Toronto bedroom and came out as transgender in a YouTube video that would turn her into a millennial icon. The video — motivated by the tragic death of her ultra-supportive mother — has since received over 3.6 million views and was the public genesis of a woman who, three years later, just witnessed her story be told on the big screen at the Sundance Film Festival in a biopic directed by two-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple and executive produced by Adam Wescott and Scott Fisher of SelectNext.

It was the first time Gigi saw This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, which chronicles her transition from closeted Canadian teenage diving sensation to openly gay online sensation Gregory Gorgeous to the transgender activist, actress, model and all-around sensation she's known as today. It's a raw and unflinching exploration of the road to self-acceptance — one that brought a much-needed jolt of empowerment to a film festival set under the dark cloud of a certain presidential inauguration.

Read more in this article by Peter Knegt.

In a performance piece called "Do Not Feed the Stereotype," artist Gregg Deal dressed as a Plains Indian outside the Denver Art Museum (courtesy Gregg Deal)

The cultural appropriation debate isn't about free speech — it's about contextIndigenous writer Alicia Elliott explains why 'free speech' arguments ignore Canada's history of oppression

It always amuses me how quickly complicated, difficult criticisms from marginalized communities get turned into an issue of "free speech." As if that term were ever as simplistic as they seem to think it is. As if those championing "free speech" are doing so for everyone and not very, very specific people.

I'm referring, of course, to Hal Niedzviecki's editorial in The Writers Union of Canada's magazineWrite. Since I'm one of the writers who first brought up the problems in this editorial, let me do what few of those harping about "free speech" have done: offer you context.

Read more in this article by Alicia Elliott.

Sebastian Grainger (left) and Jesse Keeler of Death From Above. (Last Gang Records)

Why Death From Above's alt-right controversy shouldn't come as a surprise — Writer Julia Tausch argues the band built their brand on misogyny

On October 25th, someone using the pseudonym Kurt Schwitterz wrote a Medium post documenting the relationship between Jesse Keeler, bassist of the Canadian band Death From Above, and Gavin McInnes, formerly of Vice Magazine and founder of the Proud Boys, an alt-right frat. The post initially alleged that Keeler was a Proud Boy himself. Heartbroken fans took to social media to express shock and disappointment. I'm relieved we still live in a culture where an artist's association with the alt-right provokes disgust and disavowal, but I am also genuinely confused by the surprise. Death From Above's brand has been hipster men's rights activists (MRA) from the start.

I've been trying to say this publicly for literal years. As soon as I heard "Dead Womb" ("We're looking for wives / So tired of sluts coming up to us in the clubs with their cocaine") I was irked. This was in 2002. The feeling stuck like sharp sand in a scrape. I wrote a bunch about it, but never published a word, for a couple of reasons.

Read more in this article by Julia Tausch.

Big in the '90s. From Nico Glaude's public-art project, Cut-Out Memories. (Instagram/@nicoglaude)

This art project is for any Canadian who grew up in the '90s — Meet the artist leaving bits of '90s-kid nostalgia all around Sudbury

It's an art project for everybody — especially if you remember the '90s — and the artist behind it has no plans of stopping. For the last six months, NicoGlaude has been leaving surprise sculptures all over his hometown of Sudbury, Ont. Glaude, 27, crafts things like a six-foot-tall Blockbuster VHS tapes, dino-sized boxes of Flintstones Vitamins and Hilroy scribblers that could flatten a third grader. Building everything on location using nothing but cardboard, duct tape and paint, the artist has been documenting the results on Instagram, and he's calling the project Cut-Out Memories.

Read more in this article by Leah Collins.

Mas band members walk around after going through the judging area during the Toronto Caribbean Carnival's grand parade, in Toronto on Saturday, July 30, 2016. (Canadian Press )

'It is not a street party': 6 important lessons about the true significance of CarnivalThree Caribbean artists share their insights on the history rooted in this annual celebration​

When I speak to my peers in Canada about Carnival, its many layers of meaning are frequently unknown. For many of them, Carnival has been reduced to a heavily-policed parade known primarily for its skimpy costumes and mandatory flag waving. So this week I decided to ask three Caribbean artists what they think we should know about Carnival.

These are all women who have taught me about the significance of the celebration through their artistry: director and playwright Rhoma Spencer; educator, steelpan musician and Pelau MasQueerade founder JameaZuberi; and filmmaker and Caribbean Tales International Film Festival founder Frances Anne Solomon. Here are six lessons from them to get you ready for the Carnival season.

Read more in this article by Amanda Parris.