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It is not hard to imagine life at the gallery before a juried exhibition. The hallway is overflowing with artists and their art works. Paintings are being dropped off, and every gallery room is crowded with people. Each piece must be labeled with particulars such as the title, medium, artist. Judges organize their notes. Curators call out instructions: “Large paintings in the main gallery please; try not to overlap your painting with another piece; there is coroplast in the back to set your art work on; please see that paintings have hooks and wire pre-attached…” Bubble wrap snaps; hammers bang; drills scream as the installers prepare for hanging. Pizza arrives, and the smell of coffee heightens the senses.
For Hope it is just another day as curator. She checks her clipboard once again and notes the time. A few last minute entries arrive. Soon everyone is escorted out; the doors are locked, and the judges prepare to begin. Spot lights are adjusted, and the paintings come alive. There is a very strange energy that leaps off the canvases and fills the room. This is Hope’s favourite time. Everything is still and vibrant at the same time. The judges move slowly and quietly from painting to painting. Only the sound of pencils on paper and an occasional cough can be heard; however, the paintings shout out their messages visually: some intensely and aggressively while others are more subtle; some are clear and concise and others are mysterious and illusive. If the painting is doing its job emotions are brought to the surface and a judge adds a check and comment to his notes. If the painting fails to engage, the judge slips casually by, and the painting is removed from the wall. After a few hours the judges look drained, as they hand over their final decisions to the Director, Gwen. The Judges say their good-byes and Gwen and Hope begin their final duties of rearranging the paintings into a complete cohesive exhibition.
As Hope moves through the gallery, she notices that the energy is unusually intense this night. “Perhaps it is just an unusually vibrant set of paintings,” Gwen suggests, but Hope doesn’t think so. She thinks it’s more tangible than that. She picks up one painting and moves it to another location. She stands back and looks at it, carefully noting its interaction with the painting beside it. As she examines the piece, an unexplained shadow casts itself over the painting. Hope slowly looks over her shoulder – no-one is there.
It is almost midnight now, and Gwen is finishing off the final awards for the winning pieces. Hope calls up the old wooden stair case to the offices on the second floor, “Did you see the lights dim, Gwen?” No answer. “Perhaps she didn’t hear me,” Hope thinks. But a chill flows over her body.
There are only a few more paintings to be hung. She sets her mind to task and works through the gallery rooms. Suddenly a loud bang in the back room sends Hope rushing to see what happened. A painting must have fallen. Cautiously Hope enters the room and looks around. Everything seems in order. The painting that had mysteriously been cast into shadow is now bright and clear. However, as she stands looking, she once again witnesses a shadow moving slowly across the painting. A breeze circles around Hope, and she feels suddenly cold. She backs slowly out of the room to the bottom of the stair case. She looks up, and to her relief, she sees a figure she assumes is Gwen standing on the landing with a painting in her arms. “Did you feel that?” she asks, as she looks up the stair well.
“Feel what?” a voice answers from behind her. Hope spins to look behind her and there stands Gwen. Hope lets out a scream, and Gwen screams in return. “What!” Gwen manages to say. Hope points toward the staircase, but the figure has mysteriously vanished. “I saw someone there. I thought it was you.” Gwen shakes her head, “No. I was putting the last labels on the walls in the main gallery.” As custodians of the heritage house, they are required to investigate. They both look carefully through the gallery for any sign of the mysterious person or the painting that was carried, but neither is found. A check of the motion detectors shows all rooms are empty. The hydrograph shows steady. Quickly they turn out the lights and lock the doors tightly behind them.
It is not unusual for staff to have help from unexplained or unaccounted individuals. The stair landings seem to be especially active. Not too long ago it was reported by a spiritual medium that the house is full of artists and creative spirits from different dimensions and that these spirits are good natured and helpful. There are six permanent residents one of whom enjoys playing a few tricks now and then.