‘In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo’ (TS Eliot)

We have a quaint little art gallery in my immediate town. There are other galleries in the broader community, but this one is specifically in Comox and it’s known as the Pearl Ellis, in honor, I gather, in deference to the wife of a former mayor who, aside from her spousal connection, was also a kind of patron of the arts.

A good array of pretty fine artists in this area and the wee gallery mounts some decent exhibitions. Some of the artists are relatively well-known and others are amateurs and hobbyists – like I am, for example. I am yet to gain the self-confidence with my painting to actually go on display, but there are those who think I should. I’ll see.

To make a long story short, I love galleries. Traveling in Europe I’d as soon spend time in a gallery than virtually anywhere else to get the feeling of the history and culture of a place.

Anyway, I am a member of this gallery (or musée, as my friend Jazz would call it.) and have been for some time. A couple of months ago I decided to lend a hand to do a bit more than just pay my annual membership fee, but instead to agree to act as a volunteer. To gallery-sit, as it were. Since the Pearl Ellis ahs no paid employees it relies exclusively on folks lending a hand.

It’s not really a big deal or sacrifice on my part to do the sitting. And it’s not exactly as if I, in my semi-retired state, have a hell of a lot else to do. And I like art and I like artists, so there you go.

I was initially tempted, in reference to the last paragraph to suggest it is a HUGE sacrifice on my part and the town should be grateful that I am prepared to give so unstintingly of myself considering the taxes I also pay and the undeniable fact that I separate my garbage and recycling. What the hell else do the bastards want from me? Good citizenship, too? Kee-rist! As I said, I thought of writing this paragraph but refrained from so doing, so aren’t you pleased you didn’t have to read my embittered spleen?

On Friday I did a stint from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Here’s how it went. As you read on you will appreciate the intense pressure I’m under whilst I give of myself in such an admittedly generous manner:

–         Arrive at 9:57, I believe in punctuality and think it’s right up there with personal freshness and putting the seat back down, and it’s also a bit godly.

–         Check to see if any notes have been left for me to add to my taxing chores of the next three hours. Three hours? Seems like an interminable amount of time.

–         No notes. Good. Wouldn’t want to screw up and neglect attending to anything I didn’t want to attend to in the first place. Remind myself that this is not a ‘job’ job. I mean, you can’t fire a volunteer no matter how egregiously they might fuck up. I’m giving of myself, folks. Just thought I’d remind you.

–         Phone rings. Shit. Some asshole trying to sell a new Visa plan for the outfit. Give him short shrift.

–         I phone the person who is to take this shift tomorrow – one of my taxing duties. Get her. Feel relieved that’s out of the way. Kills time. Check my watch. It is 10:03.

–         Realize I forgot to set out the outdoor ‘gallery open’ sign. Tend to that. Secretly hope a lot of people didn’t enter because of my negligence. That’s the trouble with jobs, even voluntary ones; people add complications because they’re always wanting stuff. It’s like when I was boss of a rehab, I regularly thought that if I didn’t have a staff and clients it would be quite a nice way to spend a day.

–         People come in. Ask them to sign the guest book. One of my duties, you see. All else is in order. Now I can get back to the book I’ve been endeavoring to finish for some time now.

–         Take a walk around the gallery to look at what is on show. Some nice stuff. Immediately makes me feel inadequate about my own skills.

–         Check my watch: 10:23. Time is not exactly flying by in its winged chariot.

–         Read some more. Somebody else comes in. A nice lady, quite chatty. Wonder what the odds are, I ask myself, of somebody really ‘hot’ of the female persuasion thinking a gallery visit would be just the thing prior to her pole-dancing gig later on. Think the odds are stacked against me.

–         And so it goes. One of the artists on show comes by. Have a pleasant chat with her. She tries to convince me to mount some of my stuff in a members show.

–         I might add that each time somebody comes by I say a secret little prayer that goes: “Please feel no impulse to buy anything!” I know that’s not a very productive attitude but if somebody does want to buy something it means I have to haul out receipt books and other ‘business’ paraphernalia and attempt to remember all the steps involved, especially if the prospective purchaser wants to buy by credit card, and thus succeeds in complicating my life just that much more.

–         Eventually the time passes, the whole three hours of it. How did I, in the old days, handle eight, nine and sometimes even ten hours at a job task? Oh right, I got money for doing that. But, when my three hours are up I feel a bit like a kid at the beginning of summer vacation, in spite of myself.

Don’t get the impression I dislike the task. Nothing of the sort. It’s for a good cause and so it renders me just a little bit nobler in the mind – of me, for example.






13 responses to “‘In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo’ (TS Eliot)

  1. …Wonder what the odds are, I ask myself, of somebody really ‘hot’ of the female persuasion thinking a gallery visit would be just the thing prior to her pole-dancing gig later on. Think the odds are stacked against me.

    Men! You are all alike!

  2. My Meals on Wheels deliveries take less than an hour, but I’m always glad when I leave the last house. I always feel a little guilty about that, but not too much. Mainly because I am hungry and ready to go to lunch. And as for firing a volunteer? Meals on Wheels has done that. If clients complain a bunch about someone, or they are always late or don’t show up at all without calling in, they tell them it is not working out and or that they are no longer needed. Three hours in an art gallery sounds good, but again, that’s right during lunchtime, so that would be rough.

  3. LOL
    Did you get the book read?
    You should feel lucky that a school group of kids did not invade and ask you 1001 questions more than likely having nothing to do with art. Or it could have been a group of Asians snapping away with cameras despite (I assume) the no photography signs.

  4. Recently, I have been getting up at 7:30. It has been hell. 7:30 is way too damn early. This moment in my life cannot pass quickly enough, so that I can go back to sleeping late. Of course, it is just a moment and I used to get up at 5 in order to leave the house by 6:30, and that was “permanent.” How did I ever suffer the indignity?

    I feel your pain.

  5. From what I see on the walls, you should have no qualms about exhibiting your stuff.

  6. This brought back memories for me. I one time I was working for a gallery as well. I used to do the same thing as you — be there before I was supposed to, make sure everything was ‘set’ and ready and determine what kind of person was walking in. I too, also tried to throw out mental vibes of, “Don’t feel the need to buy anything!” And as a customer standing on the other side of the counter, I feel guilty walking out of a gallery without something in my hand. Weird. And I always say, “Thank you so much…” Just for letting me in and take a look. I used to volunteer my time there as well, and my work was mounted a few times. We held exhibits (which were always fun because then you could drink wine) lol, but that line of work is very hard to keep afloat if not in an area that is arts and crafty…

    • That’s really a nice bit of connectedness, no, especially since your feelings when at the task is the same as mine, and I suffer the same guilt if I walk out without anything. So happy you are coming by my blog, Debra. I like you and I like the way you think. I supect in real-life we’d be quite good friends.

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