I was warned by my program director on choosing gtGallery for my work experience placement that they were in the middle of a move and things would be hectic. I should have known better than to be excited. My first day on the job Peter Richards greeted me outside the Switch Room with a smile bright enough to rival the sun that morning. Inside the new space I found white walls, mostly bare with one or two paintings wrapped in brown paper leaning against them.
After getting acquainted with the new space briefly Peter and I moved up the Crumlin Road to the old space. The old mill where Flax Studios owned space still bore the Golden Thread Gallery sign above its door. The gallery space was anything but bare, although the walls were not covered with art. The floor was strewn with unassembled boxes, giant rolls of bubble wrap and more wrapped paintings ready to be transported. In the offices, where I would spend most of my time over the next few days, boxes were being packed slowly in an attempt to keep operations running until the final seconds of the move. Even though the telephones had not yet been connected in the Switch Room, business as usual continued, via cell phone back and forth between the new and old offices
Compared to the bare walls of the first week, the half covered walls and floor at the beginning of the second week was a great change for the Switch Room space. The walls covered in art and the floors in the wrappings of the works as they continually arrived by post, car, bicycle and foot right up until the last minute. I busied myself contacting artists for more information about their pieces or merely to get the correct name or price for the catalogue. I watched and helped as pieces ranging from a delicate but perilously heavy tower made of sugar cubes, to a star of mirrored glass were carefully and skilfully installed into the space.
The Switch Room seemed to take on a life of its own on the Thursday before the launch as all the televisions, projections, radios and various electronic bits and bobs were being tested, set up and set in motion. As I left the night before the launch a few last pieces were arriving, sending the staff scurrying to put them up and label them correctly. Each piece had its own space in the gallery; from the intricate and complicated "Kuda Bux" to the simply displayed scratchings called "Itch" each piece had its own place and singular feeling.
On the day of the opening things were buzzing. The last pieces were labelled as Lisa flitted around pencilling in information on the white walls of the gallery. Various dignitaries arrived and began to socialize, looking the picture of sophistication with a small glass of bubbly in one hand and a strawberry in the other. Dressed in our finest week listened to speeches made by the deputy Lord Mayor and the Chairperson of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and a few others. The gallery's contributions to the local community and the wider Belfast area were applauded and good wishes for a bright future in the new space were exchanged.
Finally, at six, all the food and drink were ready and the pieces set, the doors opened. The hordes began to drift inside in small numbers at first and then around seven, suddenly pouring in. While I was sending out invitations the previous week it seemed like the whole of Belfast was being invited. Now it seemed that most of Belfast was going to show up. The opening will go down in the Gallery's history as a success.
It is lovely to return to Corrymeela one last time to relax. But everything is suddenly ending and I don't know how to deal with it. I have plans every night this week so I guess I'm leaving Belfast with a bang.