6 Canadian artists proudly following in their mothers’ footsteps

There’s no denying how familial ties can influence the things we are drawn to. For these Canadians, watching their mothers’ passion for the arts inspired them to follow a similar path.

For many of them, heading in the same trajectory as their mothers felt natural, but for others, it was a more winding journey that ultimately brought them even closer to their mothers. 

CBC News spoke to six women inspired by their mothers to pursue the same artistic discipline. 

WATCH | 6 artists on following in their mothers’ footsteps:

For each of the women who followed in their mother’s artistic tracks, the journey was different, but they all found it ultimately strengthened their relationships. 3:25

A family of dancers

Heather Lewis, left, has been teaching dance since she was 18 years old. Hailey Lewis, right, says her mother’s career in dance has given them a special bond because they are able to bounce choreography ideas off each other. (Submitted by Hailey Lewis)

Hailey Lewis shares a strong bond with her mother, Heather, who has been teaching dance at the Burlington Dance Company (BDC) in Burlington, Ont., for more than two decades. Lewis said her mother is the reason she pursued a career in dance. 

“I loved watching her teach because she was always encouraging, and the students left on a high. I wanted to be a part of that feeling of euphoria and a feeling of togetherness and accomplishment and sometimes challenge.”

Lewis recently finished her first term as a dance instructor at Sheridan College’s music theatre program in Oakville, Ont.

She says sharing a passion for dance with her mom has given her the freedom to make it her own.

Kari Bodrug says her community, family and support system have been centred around her family’s business, the Burlington Dance Company. (Kari Bodrug)

Kari Bodrug currently runs the BDC. Her mom, Cheryle Bodrug, started the studio 30 years ago with the hope of bringing the Burlington community together.

She says she picked up a lot from being around her mother so much at work.

“I run the business very similar to the way that she did,” Bodrug said.

Bodrug has been the BDC’s artistic director for more than a decade, and prior to that she was a performer. 

“When I circled back to the business, it was about honouring [her work], but on some level putting my own stamp on it, bringing the two ideas together of what she created and what I experienced.”

As Bodrug continues to run her family’s business, her mom remains a trusted adviser to the studio. 

Learning how to paint

Magdalene Johnson sees painting as a gift from her mother. She also views it as a therapeutic release. (Magdalene Johnson)

Magdalene Johnson grew up watching her mother, Jola (Maria) Misiak, paint.

Today, she is a fine arts painter on Vancouver Island, having recently taken up the craft during the pandemic. Johnson says painting and creating a business around it has strengthened her bond with her mom. 

“My mom’s work [was] all over the walls. I remember coming home and there’d be a brand new painting on the wall.”

Johnson recalled that although she grew up surrounded by her mom’s paintings, she resisted following the same artistic path and initially went into teaching instead.

“I think she’s always seen this creative side of me and that I never really realized in myself. She would probably cry knowing that she’s finally been able to bring something out of me that is very much like her.” 

Although the two of them continue to share a common pleasure in painting, Johnson said her mom prefers to keep her paintings private. 

The mother-daughter publishers

Layla Ahmad, left, said she grew up going to book readings and book launches with her mother, Farida Zaman, right. (Layla Ahmad)

Children’s author Layla Ahmad grew up in a house that also had her mother’s illustration studio.

Ahmad said this compelled her to follow suit within the book publishing industry. 

“It was something I always really wanted and we ended up being in complementary areas,” Ahmad said.

Earlier this year, the mother-daughter duo published a book together titled When Mom’s Away. Ahmad said working and debuting her first book with her mom was a great mark of respect. 

“There’s a whole thing where I want to work on more books with my mom, but I also want to be my own person as well.”

A family of music lovers

Zamani Millar hopes her music will take her around the world, just like her mother’s music did for her. She also plans to make time for her other creative outlets, design and architecture. (Supplied by Zamani)

Zamani Millar is a 20-year-old singer, songwriter and producer in Halifax who was born into a family of music lovers. The singer said she modelled parts of her musical style after her mother’s, who was in the a cappella quartet Four the Moment.

Delvina Bernard was the principle founder and musical director of the feminist group that performed across Canada and beyond for more than two decades. 

“She was in a group, whereas I’m doing this solo and it’s different because the pressure is all on me,” Zamani said.  

From left to right, Anne Marie Woods, Delvina Bernard, Kim Bernard, Andrea Currie were the a cappella group Four the Moment. The group officially ended its musical career in 2001 but has made numerous appearances since, most recently appearing with civil rights activist and former Black Panther member Angela Davis in 2018. (Peter Marsman)

Zamani says she would like to see herself maintain a life outside of music, in the same way her mom did by forging her career as an educator in Halifax. In Zamani’s case, it would be a career in community space development.

Acting

Tess Benger, left, says her acting career overlaps with that of her mother, Nicky Guadagni, right, but they have yet to perform together. (Tess Benger)

Nicky Guadagni’s dedication to acting inspired her daughter, Tess Benger, to pursue a career in musical theatre herself.

“It was a funny transition going into audition rooms with people who knew me since I was born,” said Benger, who is based in Toronto. 

“The thing I’ve inherited from [her] is in the rehearsal room, where my mom really liked taking care of people if they were sick or injured.”

Benger said she has leaned into that sense of community she saw surrounding her mother.


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

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