Typical—I arrive early to avoid lines of people. And typical of people who live here, I might not attend something that could involve a line. So even knowing there will be no line, I show up early for the art film showing at 7:30. And no one is here except a ticket taker who doesn’t ask to see my ticket.
He shrugs: No one comes without a ticket.
I nod. He nods. We smile at each other. It’s so quiet in the museum I think about telling him I can hear our smiles echo. But yeah, that’d be lame.
Outside in the parking lot lit by one weak street light, Derby is parked with his back against the wind, facing a row of nine Douglas fir trees that line the museum’s north wall. In case there is a white-out when the show is over, I’ll be able to find my vehicle because I’ve made a note to remember I parked next to the second tree. After all these years living in town, my imagination runs as if I still live on the prairie. On a homestead, with a rope tied between the barn and my cabin. In 1863. The snow is falling, the temperatures are dropping and I’m glad I thought to prop the wiper-blades in the air so they’d not freeze to the windshield.
Instead of heading to the main galleries, I step inside the Children’s Art Gallery. Mostly because I like the space: low ceilings, thick walls, wooden floors that creak. This used to be the County Jail and so a few bars and heavy locks remain to lend flavor to the artwork hanging on the walls. I like to walk around and listen to the floorboards, imagine the sound of a jail cell. Opening. Closing. Opening. Footsteps that are not mine.
Last time I was in this gallery the artwork was of barnyard animals. This time, first-graders had been asked to draw Diversity. Each six-year old artist had been asked to tell their teacher what the term meant. One student explained: Diversity means learning new things. One little boy explained it meant to use every shape he could think of: Circles, Boxes, and Forks.
See, it’s good to show up early.