You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.
— Hotel California
The Eagles were singing about their home state in the classic 1977 song, but it would be pretty easy to swap in Nelson.
I just returned from eight days in my old stomping ground of Calgary. Now a less frequent destination after 19 years in Nelson, it’s always nice to get a taste of big city. The traffic and bustle provide reassurance that I’ve chosen the right place to plant real roots.
Though I’ll never again live in the city I spent the first half of my life in, Calgary is a pretty fantastic place.
For starters it’s booming. The construction is constant and the new arrivals are steady. Seemingly recession-proof, the unemployment rate in Calgary is 4.8 per cent. Canada hovers around 7.2 per cent and here in BC the June numbers show a 6.6 per cent rate. If you want a job, move to Alberta. They are begging for people.
Amidst the explosive growth is a city with surprising soul. The arts and culture scene is world class. Outside the suburbs, the mix of old and new architecture in the core of the city is impressive.
For the first time I looked at Calgary through a tourist’s eyes and I was impressed. If ever I could get used to the constant wind, vicious mosquitoes and –40 C winters… it actually might be a great place to live.
Despite checking out temporarily from mountain life, just like in The Eagles song I never really left Nelson.
For starters I darted during the week of the biggest news story of the year. The Johnsons Landing tragedy was on the front page of Calgary newspapers and for the first half of last week was still leading the FM rock station newscasts. My thoughts were never far from home and the great work the editorial team at the Nelson Star was doing covering this story for readers in our region was always on my mind.
The most unexpected connection to Nelson came at the Glenbow Museum and encapsulates the real lure of this community.
My daughter and I visited the city’s cultural centerpiece on the day after the 100th Calgary Stampede broke. One of the exhibits tied in with the city’s annual old west party was famed cowboy artist Charlie Russell. But, in a small room that branched off the main exhibit I was drawn to a painting that had a familiar look. It’s a style I had seen before.
Back in the mid-2000s, I wrote a story on one of the new arrivals to Nelson. Drawn to the Kootenays for lifestyle and the opportunity to raise his young daughter in a small community, artist Murray Kimber’s illustrations were part of a recently released children’s book Ancient Voices. The story was about the book, but more about how Nelson draws incredibly talented people.
Beside the striking cowboy painting at the Glenbow was the artist’s name: Murray Kimber. Whoa. I knew Kimber had skills, but never expected to see his work at one of Canada’s foremost museums.
Kimber spent many years in Calgary, graduating from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 1988. Several years ago he was commissioned to produce three paintings for the Glenbow and the one I discovered was part of the set.
Since moving to Nelson in 2000, Kimber and his family have become an important part of the fabric that goes well beyond his skills as artist. For a while his day job was working at the Nelson and District Community Complex. You probably saw him there, but had no idea of his reach outside of our little town. His daughter is part of the Nelson Figure Skating Club and the stories you have been reading about the club’s events and successes in the Nelson Star over the last two years were written by Kimber.
Last month Kimber purchased Speedpro Signs which he says is a nice complement to the illustration work he does for clients around the world. In his spare time he is currently working on a movie poster for a production company in Mumbai, India. His reach is global.
Kimber told me earlier this week — like he probably did during that first interview a few years back — that he was drawn to Nelson for its “ideas and amenities.” A place where big city ideas and talents can mesh with an incredible setting.
Driving home last Saturday I realized Nelson is more than a geographical dot on the map. It’s really a state of mind. A colourful palette of people who are drawn to this community for its eclectic nature to go along with the gifts Mother Nature has provided.
Seeing Murray Kimber’s work in such an unexpected location was a highlight of my trip to Calgary. These are the people in our neighbourhood and it’s a privilege to share the streets with all this talent. It truly makes you realize that you may check out at times, but you can never leave.
Bob Hall is the editor at the Star. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can find him on twitter at @bobbyhall10