Who’s Who: Sasha Nelson and The Hardware Gallery
By Mike Butler
For those of you who don’t know, I have my own show on Eastlink Community TV called Annapolis Valley In-Focus, an interview show where I get to meet and chat with members of our community who are striving in business, and doing what they can to improve our Valley. I am so fortunate to know and to have interviewed Sasha Nelson. A few months ago he appeared on my show, and the setting for the program is actually taped in the Hardware Gallery that Sasha owns and operates in downtown Kentville. Let’s take a minute to get to know this guy a bit better, shall we?
Sasha Nelson is originally from Moncton, New Brunswick, but currently calls the Annapolis Valley home. “At the end of high school,” he says, “I was faced with a choice to pursue either physics or fine arts at university (as I’ve been creative and have drawn my whole life). I chose physics, I think because it seemed like it would be more likely to get me a well-paying job. However, I couldn’t deny my deep curiosity for trying to decipher how the universe works, and found myself drawn outside of physics, into psychology, philosophy, and comparative religions, and came full circle back to fine arts. I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts at NSCAD where I met my wife, Beth, who is from Kentville. I majored in painting there, though my interests expanded far beyond just the medium of paint. Upon graduating, Beth and I had a son together and our busy life began.”
Sasha decided to pursue fine arts further in hopes of making a career out of it, and obtained his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Waterloo. His thesis was pretty conceptual, combining esoteric philosophies with a major critique of consumer culture, and took the form of an installation using painting, sculpture, animation, and music. Upon graduating, and having had another son, he became an apprentice carpenter to pay the bills. He commented, “I obtained my Red Seal Certification in General Carpentry in Ontario. My wife and I decided to return to our native Maritimes and bought the hundred-year-old house in downtown Kentville in which my wife grew up! And that’s how I landed in the Annapolis Valley.”
By day Sasha is a carpenter for a local contractor, as well as the volunteer gallery director and founder of Hardware Gallery, a new art space in Kentville. He works with an awesomely powerful team of board members, collectively known as the non-profit Kentville Art Gallery Society (KAGS), to make things happen there. On the side, Sasha’s also a freelance graphic designer, having designed the Friends of the Kentville Library logo, the Hardware Gallery logo and website, the BethBuddha Yoga logo, and the Kentville Community Fund logo. And if that wasn’t enough dabbling in the arts community, Sasha is also an arts instructor, working on some upcoming Hardware Gallery workshops, and teaching periodically at Ross Creek Centre for the Arts.
The Hardware Gallery is such a unique space in Kentville. “I was looking to create opportunities for myself to work more within my art background,” Sasha says, “and decided to explore the possibility of opening an art gallery. It happened that at that very time, Kentville had elected a new progressive council and mayor, who were openly looking to welcome an arts-based project into the Calkin building that had been recently donated to the town. Thus I formed KAGS, which originally consisted of my wife and myself, and three other friends I had made upon moving here, who were amazingly knowledgeable, resourceful, and experienced, and who shared in and trusted my vision. We put forth a proposal to the Town of Kentville and after a ton of hard work we opened the doors of the gallery in March 2018!”
Since then, KAGS has grown and now consists of nine super-charged volunteer board members whose ideas and abilities are only held back by time and funding. As KAGS grows and can hopefully access more financial resources, they will bring even more awesome things to the Valley.
Besides carpentry and the many levels of art that Sasha partakes in, he’s also played drums for more than twenty years. He’s played in bands throughout his life, mostly heavy music. Music is huge for Sasha and he’s always looking for more ways to integrate it into his busy schedule, and he’s also developed a massive passion for cooking over the years of having a family.
“I like to be active with my family,” he says, “particularly through soccer, basketball, yoga, and hockey. My wife is inspiring me to try running and my two youngest boys are amazing soccer players! Fitting it all in is tough and sometimes I wonder why I decided to do Hardware Gallery. But, throughout the months that the gallery has been open, I’ve come to meet so many people who are looking for the same thing: a network of like-minded individuals who need to feed off of the collective creative flow that exists here in the Valley and Nova Scotia in general. The creative community is a real thing! It’s not just the domain of students! That being said, I think my vision of the Hardware Gallery art space is expanding into a larger dream of creating a full-fledged art school here in Kentville! There are actually a ton of people who would be amazing instructors around here!”
Take the time to go visit Hardware Gallery and meet Sasha Nelson. This guy is on the pulse of something very special in our community and it needs to be embraced! Best of luck Sasha!
To learn more, visit hardwaregallery.ca.