The impressions of Inae Kim’s life in Nova Scotia can be seen in the vivid colours and contours of her paintings. Images of historic Halifax houses, street scenes and flowers are among a growing collection of beautiful and memorable works of art.
The South Korean-born artist moved with her husband and children, then 3 ½ and 1 ½, to Canada in 1996 and settled in Toronto. “The beginning was hard,” she says, explaining that her engineer husband couldn’t find work right away. In Korea, Inae worked as a graphic designer and also taught art to children, having graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Certificate of Fine Arts Teaching degree.
She and her husband focused on studying English and then decided to move to Halifax, at the urging of a Korean friend who lived here. “We didn’t realize how long a trip it would be,” she says with a chuckle. “It is a big country!”
Inae worked in a shopping mall candy shop. They both met many Koreans who encouraged them to go to Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services (Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia). Her husband participated in Pre-Employment Workshops where he learned to write a resume and cover letter. He volunteered for a month at Keane Canada, an information technology company, and then moved on with a friend to CGI, where he still works.
Meanwhile, Inae’s business partner left for Toronto so she left the candy business. She went to Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia where she says she was shocked to realize how much English she still needed. “I was so hungry for English, I absorbed everything!” She took Communication for Work and Business and Pre-Employment Workshops that included an office information technology certificate program, and Employment Counselling. She still found it hard to find work. “I submitted over 100 resumes and only got two interviews.” Inae was trying to find a receptionist’s job but her English simply wasn’t good enough.
She packed fish for a year at a friend’s business in Burnside. After taking more English classes at Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, she was hired at a financial service company as a balancing clerk. “I was so happy to get out of that factory, even though I was now working the night shift.” She stayed for seven years. “I felt good about myself. It is a nice place, a nice environment.” But, with two children, the night shift was taking its toll. Inae would eat dinner with her children and run off to work and her husband would clean up and put the children to bed.
A watercolour course at Bloomfield Centre changed everything and Inae boldly decided to paint full time. “Everyone loved my work, so that pushed me.” She is busy and successful, having received commissions for work both locally and elsewhere. She has paintings in the Nova Scotia Art Gallery and the Wired Monk Coffee Shop and she is an elected member of the prestigious organization, The Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour.
Inae continues to look to Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia for help and to work on her pronunciation. “Learning English is a long journey. Whenever I have a problem, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia is the first place to come.”