When I walked in the first thing I noticed was the echo. The voices of the schoolgroup, the heavy footsteps of the security guard, everything. All of the sounds drifted around the high ceilings and the marble floors and then returned. Despite the doublenoise of the lobby it seemed it got quieter as you moved away from the center, as you entered the exhibit areas. Every hallway, every small cul de sac, was filled with paintings and sculptures and quiet people. Some standing, some sitting on sofas, staring intently , some drifing around (whispering to one another). The only sounds were the steps in and around the rooms and distant words from the main room.

Was this an official policy? Reverence? Respect? What made this place feel so somber and profound?

What I enjoyed most was an Escher type moment. Sitting in a gallery room and watching a young art student paint a painting. She sat in her black t-shirt and faded jeans with a pink bandana to pull back her curls. On the floor, legs crossed with glasses, unneeded for this task, pulled up on her head. She was working on a renaissance oil painting of a mother and child. Her canvas was placed on an easel with short legs so she could do this in a sitting position, but it allowed anyone interested to look over her shoulder. No matter. She was oblivious. Like the other parts of the gallery, like the copper statues and the watercolors she was in her place and in her time. Implacable and unconcerned with the surroundings. I don't think a reggae band would have bothered her. But I did notice she didn't have headphones on (no internal distractions).

Some people I'm sure were bothered by her presence there. You could see the looks:

Such dirty clothes, so casual and irreverant.

But I think she was the most holy of the crowd. She was tithing with her heart while the rest of us were just filing past. If this was a church, if all of us were seeking some type of salvation, some kind of transcendence, I don't know who received the message. But I know I was blessed with her homage, her offering.

After all, admission was free.

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