Community Classroom

Community Vision: Illustrator Shares Hope for Better Future

Sebastian Abboud's REIMAGINE Nanaimo illustration has pops of highlighter yellow and pink and depicts cycling, walking, buses and more.
Author: Rachel Stern, VIU Communications Officer

VIU Graphic Design Professor Sebastian Abboud’s artwork commissioned for REIMAGINE Nanaimo campaign.

When Sebastian Abboud and his wife, Maxine, had twins in 2020 it changed his priorities and made him think about the kind of world he wanted his children to grow up in.

It’s one of the reasons he chose to participate in the City of Nanaimo’s REIMAGINE Nanaimo campaign. The campaign invited people to add their voice to the conversation about what kind of city they’d like Nanaimo to be in 20 years and beyond.

Abboud’s piece, “Looking Forward”, was one of three works commissioned by the City of Nanaimo’s Culture & Events team for the campaign. Sonnet L’Abbé, a VIU English Professor, and Valina Zanetti, Nanaimo’s Youth Poet Laureate (2019-2021) also had pieces commissioned.

Another motivation for contributing to the campaign is Abboud’s sense of connection to the community, which he says is stronger in Nanaimo than other places he lived in the past such as Vancouver.

“Once I moved to Nanaimo, I felt a really strong connection to what was happening,” says Abboud. “I started to plan creative events around town, and I found that every time I tried to organize something everyone was really responsive and receptive to my ideas, which was amazing. I immediately felt like part of the community.”

Sebastian Abboud stands in front of some trees while wearing a hat and raincoat.

VIU Graphic Design Professor Sebastian Abboud

“Looking Forward” depicts several topics Abboud would like to see prioritized for the future of Nanaimo, including affordable housing, active transportation, education, arts and culture, and building strong and safe communities. Abboud says the COVID-19 pandemic has stressed the importance of many of these issues, especially affordable housing.

“I think it is very apparent that there is a massive divide between the economic classes. We need to focus on housing solutions for everyone,” he says. “I think especially with COVID and just the rising cost of housing ownership and rentals in Nanaimo, it’s just putting the pinch on a lot of people. I see it all the time in this neighbourhood. I see it right outside my window. My wife and I have been fortunate enough that we can own a house in Nanaimo, so I think we feel really privileged. We must find ways to build these communities for a wide range of economic backgrounds.”

Abboud says he wanted “Looking Forward” to be a fun piece that wasn’t very structured, so it appealed to a range of people.

“I wanted nice pops of colour almost like a highlighter yellow and pink, just to make it fun. If this is supposed to be something that we want people to contribute to in some way, I thought I could do this kind of lighthearted approach because we want a diverse number of voices,” he says. “We want it to be open and inclusive.”

Sebastian Abboud's REIMAGINE Nanaimo illustration has pops of highlighter yellow and pink and depicts cycling, walking, buses and more.

Looking Forward by Sebastian Abboud

An aerial view of buildings at the VIU Nanaimo campus with a cropping of trees in the foreground.

VIU Creative Writing and Journalism Professor Sonnet L'Abbé's song Nazaneen: A Song for Nanaimo,” was also commissioned as part of the REIMAGINE Nanaimo campaign. Read about her work in the Poet Sings Song about being Black in Nanaimo blog on Community Classroom.


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