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Walter paints a new future


After living in his car and travelling across Australia for the past five years, Walter Nickels seems to have found his niche in Adelaide with his artwork in hot demand and a permanent roof over his head.

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And he attributes much of his change in circumstance to the Hutt St Centre, which assisted him in finding rental accommodation and is supporting him to get his name recognised in the art world.

Originally from Darwin, Walter, 48, knows what it’s like to be homeless and has lived on the streets and in his car at various time since his teens.

Over the years he has played several sports, worked in jobs including as a handyman and security guard, but it was when he picked up a paintbrush that he felt he began making his greatest contribution.

“For me, art is a way of creating, learning and looking…the brainwave of art is very powerful. It’s a beautiful thing to do,” Walter said, adding that art was “my job now”.

His talent was first noticed in 2012 when he won the overall excellence prize in the Advocate Art Awards presented by the Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs.

With $6000 prizemoney in his pocket, Walter realised this could be a way of supporting his four children in Darwin, and his friends and family.

In recent years he’s been travelling around Australia and when he arrived in Adelaide six months ago he sought the support of the Hutt St Centre. Soon he began attending the twice weekly art groups where his talent was quickly identified by education officer Sam Pielichaty.

“Walter has blown us away with his unique talent,” she said. “He definitely has got something special with the colours and vibrancy of his art and the stories he tells through them.”

Sam helped Walter with some online grant applications and he was successful in securing a $5000 Rail Care Art Grant from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. He is currently working on a five-part art installation which will be showcased in an Adelaide train station in the near future.

In the past three months Walter has also secured rental accommodation, which means he is able to paint several hours a day at home.

For him it is a labour of love and he enjoys telling the stories behind each creation. He adds his inspiration comes from sources as diverse as the subjects he paints, including Rembrandt, the French greats, the art in Chinese temples and the works of Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira.


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