2023 Theme: 25

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the CHA, CU Boulder students created works in the theme of “25” and things that are synonymous with the number 25 such as: “silver” (25 is the silver anniversary), one-quarter, 25%, etc.

First Place: Elizabeth Lo

“In 25 Years” 

Project Description (excerpt)

"In 25 Years" is a film where I wanted to immerse my viewers in the musings of a young college student. While thinking about the theme of "25", I thought about how I'm often asked to "imagine yourself 5/10/20 years in the future." To cope with my mental health, I would turn to escapism in fantasy worlds, especially the ones that involved "transmigration" or the popular genre coined as "isekai" (meaning "in another world"), where the protagonist is a person, often of our world, who has been forcibly moved to another fantasy world where they embark on their journey with some form of added advantage due to their "otherworldliness." As someone who has been heavily influenced by Japanese and East Asian media like manga, manhwas, and manhuas, light novels, and anime, I wanted to pay homage to the genre by exploring its most common tropes and utilizing 2D animated sequences as a nod to the overall aesthetic. While the subject's imagination at first goes to the most common tropes of girls' transmigration (princesses, villainesses, characters from already-written works), and side characters, little by little, she moves towards more mundane ideas until she makes her exit from the library.

Second Place: Kailey McComas

"Quarter of a Whole"

Happy feelings last a quarter of the time sad feelings last.

I have $25 in my pocket.
Do I buy something to make me happy for a moment
or to prevent sadness for four times that moment?

Not every story is meant to be finished.
Some people die at 25,
while others dream of dying at the age of 5.
Is there ever a chance to be saved from a quarter-life crisis if there’s no reason not
to die?
This cynicism will only take 75% of your time.

I’m learning to not sit in sadness for so long,
but everything between sadness and happiness is emptiness
and contentedness escapes me with each breath of sadness I allow to berate me.
Maybe it’s because 100% of my life has been change and conflict and chaos.
Just sitting feels like I’m doing something wrong, but a voice deep within me screams,
“It will all pay off.”

Happy feelings last a quarter of the time sad ones last.
Until you decide
in all 75% of your sad time
that happiness is on the other side,
as you lament in the lie
that happiness is the only feeling for which to strive.
100% of life is a search for success
until you almost lose it to sadness.
Then, to live is to succeed,
and to breathe is to exhale strife.
To step foot between the stars and the grass is success enough.
So, with $25 in my pocket,

I lay on the ground and dream in all my contingency
of drinking just to drink and eating to help me think
of a life in which I feel as strange to the stars as they do to me.

Sometimes it’s too hard to breathe,
then the stars look down, pouring their brightness onto me
and I remember how it felt to be the light someone else needs
and how much weight it was to carry.
Then, I feel guilty for living again,
yet the stars continue to shine unconditionally without complaint.
They live to shine just as much as we live to be shined upon.
Together, we can just be.

The stars are constant.
I’m lost, but they show me direction 100% of the time.

My $25 dollars are gone, and so are the other 75.
Gone only because I decided they weren’t worth a dime.

Project Description (excerpt)

My poem describes the transformation my mindset underwent regarding my own sadness. The poem invites others to reach the conclusion that life does not have to be a constant battle. Rather, it can be an opportunity to grow in appreciation for our own constancy–being there for ourselves every step of the way. The number twenty-five inspired me to evaluate why I only spend 25% of my time happy, while sadness fills the other seventy-five. I came to the conclusion that happiness innately resides within, even through sadness. Existing by itself–tears, pain, regret included–gives reason to celebrate.

2021 Theme: Resilience

Art can be a powerful motivation for boosting the well-being of people, society, and the environment. Art can inspire, heal, and offer hope in these challenging times. 

First Place: Julia Merten

“An Absolutely Essential Survival Kit for Growing Up” 

Project Description (excerpt)

This film is an artistic investigation of the concept of “what would you tell your younger self about what you know now?”. We speak about growth and traumatic experiences we wish we could have avoided. Instead of a literal speech or letter to myself, I explore this concept through the tangible object of a suitcase. Hence, I will “pack myself a suitcase” for my future. The emotional journey will be one of exploration, humor, lightheartedness, and relatability. This will all lead up to the fact that, while I could give all of these items to my former self, she would be just as clueless as the audience was before hearing all of the stories, hence, life experience must be lived to be learned. This project is important, timely, and relevant, because I am about to enter a large new stage in my life, adulthood. Growing up is all about learning lessons, and becoming the truest, most fulfilled version of oneself. I am someone who tends to ruminate on the past and reflect on things I could have said or done differently. I am finally coming to peace with decisions I have made, people I have loved, and experiences I have and have not had the pleasure of enjoying. If I was fully prepared on how to handle each and every situation I faced emotional difficulty in, I wouldn’t be half as in touch as I truly believe I am today. I would like to get better about forgiving myself, and loving the person I am - for this reason I can’t wait to continue to make mistakes, get my heart broken, and become even more ‘Julia’ than I am now. The circumstances of this project feel relevant in times of COVID. Many consistently resent the way they lived through the pandemic, as well as prior to the pandemic. While I cannot speak for all others’ experiences, I know I experienced more growth, pain, happiness, and gratitude than I have ever before, and I would not live it any other way. I believe the pandemic has received more attention than I care to give of myself any longer, so instead of speaking of the pandemic explicitly, I hope my audience will attach their own meanings.

Second Place: Connor Flynn

"Awaken: A Letter to Self"

Project Description (excerpt)

This project was something I had been conceptualizing for a while, both in terms of wanting to combine my own music and film, and in that I wanted to make a piece that addressed inspiration, creativity, and my personal experience with COVID. Creativity has been my solace throughout this extremely difficult past year. I've been able to dedicate more time to creating my art and exploring new means of creative expression. However, there have still plenty of times that I've gotten stuck feeling hopeless, uninspired, and stagnant not knowing how or when we would make it out the other side. This project is a culmination of all of that, from combining the art that I have been creating, to addressing the difficulties of the past year and the words I have needed to hear when I've felt stuck. That is why it is a letter to self. The song itself is the first single off my new project FLYN through which I will be releasing more of the music I have been and will be creating.

Honorable Mentions

Nathan Bala

Anna Lynton

Ryan McCormick & Rand Phillips

Kevin Wu