Day in the Life: Bruce Gallery, symbol of silence

Category:  The Arts
Thursday, October 11th, 2018 at 8:35 AM

In the novella “Song of the Trees,” Mildred Taylor describes a grove of trees who in their age had witnessed “the happy songs of happy days….and listened to sad tales of a foreign land.” In that vein, she captures lyrically a truth of life: places are witnesses to the growth, evolution and complexity of the human experience. Like silent witnesses they stand long after we have lived and died. They are keepers of pain and happiness, regret and forgiveness — guilt. I believe the stored-up energy of life acts as a sort of magnet, drawing us to rooms, halls, buildings — even objects. At a molecular level we find the steady undercurrent of history comforting — so we spend time in certain places. 

In that vein, “A Day in the life” will biograph the many locations across Edinboro University where students and staff congregate, noting the unique attributes of such locations, the people who frequent them, and why.

I first walked into Bruce Gallery my freshman year of college. Like Sheba touching her bare toes to the halls of Solomon’s palace, I gasped at the shiny floor that graces the gallery. The autumnal hues of my classmates’ clothing mixed together on the floor and were reflected in blurry, moving shapes. For a minute, the sight of art, arranged methodically around an empty space, hushed us. And then the regular chatter of a class of 15 started up again, voices ricocheting off the hard plaster walls and ceramic sculptures and metal jewelry. As a freshman standing in Bruce at 11 in the morning, the sensations of line, and color, and form and shape reaching out and demanding my attention from every direction struck awe in my heart. That was my first time in a gallery. 

Now, two years later, Bruce has emerged as a symbol of silence during chaos for me. 

Bruce Gallery is in the basement of Doucette. A blue and pink neon sign hangs on the Waterford street entrance of the building — announcing the gallery’s existence (when someone remembers to switch it on). 

Walking into the lower level of Doucette at most points of the day is like walking into a silent cave. The lights are always dimmed as low as they can without being off. Yellowed newspapers hang on bulletin boards, advertising the arts sections of The New York Times, The Pittsburgh Gazette and The LA Times. On the opposite wall, another board advertises student clubs and campus events. 

If you visit Doucette between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the light cast upon the hallway by the entrance will fade. And soon you’ll notice a strange gradient is created: the dim grey/black of the hallway meets the bright yellow/white light escaping from room G-2, which holds the cubical offices of some art professors. 

At that intersection of light lies a white wall lined with blue cushioned chairs and two coffee tables piled high with thick magazines. Behind that wall is Bruce. 

Crossing the threshold of narrow beige doors and mint green desk is like stepping into an invisible locale permanently partitioned from the ever-flowing streams of time outside it. Art exhibits of all types stand like sentinels of experience — projecting pure art at visitors and forcing them to observe. 

At this time of day, there is usually an art student or two standing in front of a sculpture, or painting, sketching some rough rendering of the work they see before them. The occasional sound of thick, sketch pad pages rustling intermixes with the resting and raising breath. 

Bruce in the evening is two beasts. 

On gallery opening nights, it is filled to the brim, food simmering in hot plates, music echoing through the gallery, and occasionally cheap wine sloshing into solo cups. 

Most other nights, Bruce is silent. 

Shayma Musa can be reached at

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