Kim Nelson strives to get the best out of everything. His art is a testament to that.
But this attitude also carries over to his other loves, the Yass Valley and the history that envelops this community.
Kim moved from Sydney to Yass in 1984 and became the inaugural manager of Cooma Cottage after the National Trust took it on. He lived and worked there and turned it from a humble local attraction to one of the National Trust’s most successful regional properties. He was there for around 11 years before he left to live closer to Canberra.
Kim said he wanted to leave Yass so he would no longer be known as ‘Mr Cooma Cottage’, but Yass proved too close to his heart. He returned a year later.
It was then that he took a leap of faith and decided to become a career artist. Painting had always been Kim’s main love. Since that time, he has held solo exhibitions, completed commissioned work for many organisations such as UNICEF and has produced requested work for the likes of Rupert Murdoch.
His work is featured in the Australian High Commission in London and the News Limited offices in New York.
In 2010 he took another big risk and moved from his art space from his quiet sanctuary near Wee Jasper to Oddfellows’ Hall on Comur Street.
“In a way I was just having a joke with my friend who owned the property at the time,” he said.
“We were talking about how great it would be to turn this [building] into something special and the next day I got a call and she said to me ‘let’s do it’. I couldn’t believe it.”
Kim admits it makes little to no business sense to have a studio/gallery in the middle of a small town like Yass but he thinks it would be terrible if a place like Oddfellows’ was closed to the public.
“In my opinion, Oddfellows’ is just one of those places Yass needs. I saw it’s potential and it gave me an opportunity to marry two things I love; art and history.
“But it doesn’t matter whether I work in here, or someone else works here, a place like this needs to be open.”
Kim still works from home a couple of days a week and in the Oddfellows’ studio for the rest of the week.
“Mixing a studio and a gallery is probably not what most artists would like but I think people seeing the art, and seeing me at work, is a great thing.”
Along with all this, Kim has also been pivotal in the Classic Yass venture, and especially the Arts Trail.
“It wasn’t my idea, but YassArts [a network of local artists] decided it wanted an arts trail, so I used the skills I have from my career in marketing and advertising to get that word out.
“We knew that the Antique Car Club did something every year, Red Cross did something, and the Garden Club did something as well, so I thought why not put them all together.”
In 2009 the first Classic Yass weekend took place.
It has built up every year since. Kim believes Yass is right on the brink of becoming a real tourist destination.
“We are not quite there yet. We have a bit of work to do but we are getting there.
“Yass is a great town and we need to make sure we share what we have because it’s excellent.”