Former Capilano University student forges an artistic future for himself
Jessica Lio // Online Editor
At 23 years old, North Vancouver-based artist Christian Abt would be considered to many as wise beyond his years. Since moving to BC four years ago, the artist has been dabbling in a number of visual and musical artistic mediums, balancing multiple jobs in the entertainment industry, and carving his own path to artistic success.
Abt grew up on a small reserve in Alberta called Montana First Nation, located about 90 km south of Edmonton and home to a population of just under 1,000 people. Having lived on the reserve for the majority of his life, he witnessed a lot of people in the community struggling with mental and physical health issues, unemployment and reliance on social assistance programs. His mother was heavily involved in organizing events back home, and even after moving away from the reserve, Abt held onto his deep appreciation for community building.
Whether he’s producing experimental electronic music under the name Finches & Sparrows, drumming with the band Reliable Mamba or playing sets as a DJ, his goal is always to bring people together and get them dancing. “I don’t want there to be any deeper meaning behind it than just ‘let’s stop worrying, let’s just have fun together’,” he said.
On the visual front, what started with writing specials on a chalkboard at a local liquor store lead to commissioned artwork at various local pubs and weddings. Recently, on a visit back home, the scope of his work grew even bigger – Abt was asked to paint a mural on the site of a newly built community garden on the reserve.
With only a small budget for paint and a 105 square foot wall to cover, he decided to work with minimal colours to create a warm and welcoming floral scene. Naturally, he thought sunflowers would lend themselves well to the space. After two days of painting with yellow, green, and brown then adding details in black and white, the mural came together nicely. As a final touch, Abt painted the word “tatawaw” in Cree syllabics – a message to tell people in the community “you are welcome.”
“I learned that if you build something for people, they will show up,” he said, proud of what he had helped build – a space where families, kids and even dogs on the reserve can gather together and have fun. “Ever since I left the reserve, I’ve wanted to give back in some way. I don’t feel that a mural is enough yet, but I know the harder I work the more I’ll be able to give back eventually.”
Like many artists though, his artistic vision wasn’t always so clear. Just a couple years ago, Abt was battling self-doubt about his artistic talents. He had trained at the Harbourside Institute of Technology to work in the audio engineering industry, but he wasn’t sure if a career in music was going to work out.
Studying communications at CapU became a fallback plan for the aspiring artist. “It was totally enlightening. I had no idea that people had been putting so much work into understanding how people work together,” he recalled.
Despite all that he was learning at school, he realized he wasn’t growing into the person he wanted to be. After winter break, he had began making music again and made it a priority to get his work out into the world. He knew that staying in school wasn’t going to work. With a new perspective, Abt set out to release music, start playing shows and find a job in the audio industry. By June, he had accomplished all of these goals and was confident that if he worked hard enough, his dream of making a living out of his passion for music could be within reach.
Nowadays, Abt works as an audio technician for local companies Gear Force and Show Max, setting the stage for all kinds of live entertainment events. While these gigs keep him busy and help pay the bills, he has his sights set on bigger goals – releasing new music, playing at music festivals and eventually going on tour.
At the heart of everything, he’s just an artist setting out on a journey to help people feel just a little less alone in the world.