Today I felt drawn, as if by magic, to Scales Fine Arts Center. Like there was some weird gravitational pull nudging me in that direction. Scales is one of my favorite places on campus. I have been thinking of Scales a lot and have wanted to do a Five Senses there, and despite the gray and dismal day, I wandered over there around 11:30.
If you aren’t familiar with Scales, it is the one academic building that deviates from our Georgian brick architecture. A unique and distinctive part of our skyline. Scales has two buildings – an upper (where Brendle Recital Hall is) and a lower (where the Mainstage Theatre and Hanes Art Gallery are). There is a dance studio in back of lower Scales too – an old airplane hanger that has been converted.
So I spent about 1/2 hour observing lower Scales for the Five Senses. Enjoy.
– Three pods of low seating, with four chairlike sections to them. A solitary stainless steel travel mug sits abandoned on the tabletop of the first one.
– Funky looking 1960s-70s style chairs ring the room. Think avant garde Brady Bunch residential chairs.
– A vibrant color scheme – tans and purples and sages and oranges and tomato reds are everywhere, from the carpet to the pods to the funky chairs to the walls.
– Four groups of people when I arrive. Three are solitary students engrossed in studying or surfing laptops, it’s hard to tell from my vantage point. There is a group of two people talking in the funky chairs, and I am having a great deal of difficulty telling if it is two students or a student and a youngish (or just young at heart) faculty member.
– A giant lizard/insect/birdlike scuplture hangs in the middle of the room. This has been here since my student days.
– Lots of signs on the Theatre Box office and restroom doors – how to declare a major in one of the fine arts, posters for Waiting for Godot (our next University Theatre production) as well as other local productions.
– A member of Facilities pushing a rolling trash can into the restroom to clean it.
– A sandwich/snack vending machine, as well as a coffee machine. Both get used during my time there.
– The entrance to the Hanes Art Gallery is closed; a sign says the current exhibition is coming down and they are installing the next (to open Feb. 17th).
– Girls in scarves.
– The Box Office door open and a person came out. I had no idea anyone was in there, as the windows were all closed.
– Three Facilities workers with big wrenches enter and take the elevator upstairs.
– A girl takes the funky chair next to me. She has black equestrian boots with muddy toes. Not caked in mud, but I walked in wet muddy grass splotches.
– An older gentleman walk in with what looks like a giant Army duffle. The duffle is the exact shape of a conga drum (apologies to my Music colleagues if I mislabeled that one).
– The same Facilities staff member who had the rolling trash can goes up to a student. They are talking just out of earshot, but it is clear from their tone of voice and body language that they know and like each other. There is no awkwardness of people who aren’t familiar with each other – they are clearly known entities. I am assuming she either studies here often and/or is a major and in the building a lot. I hear her say that her throat hurts, and he is telling her to look after herself.
– Later I see the same gentleman and another male student interacting. Not sure who smiled first or spoke first, but they know and like each other too. It’s a sweet little moment to witness, this staff member watching after his flock. When you don’t have your parents around, sometimes having an adult who knows who you are and talks to you can make all the difference.
– A dog – the holy grail of college students! A staff member has her small dog on leash, and while she talks to the student in the line above, the dog wanders to a girl at the next pod who can barely contain her delight. The dog goes back to its owner, and I catch the girl peeking at the dog a couple times, hoping the dog will wander back to her (the dog doesn’t).
– As it gets closer to noon, a few more students wander through on the way to class or to find a place to study. It is decidedly hard to figure out who are students and who are faculty or staff. I have seen a couple of youngish guys in blazers and chucks and they could equally be a senior or a young faculty member. Working with the arts must keep everyone here young.
– The big wrenches of the Facilities guys.
– Piano music. It is wafting up from somewhere beneath us (there is a lower floor where art studios are located). It sounds to my untrained ears like some sort of modernish classical piece. Whoever is playing is really good.
– Zippers of backpacks being opened and closed.
– Crinkly paper from Subway being unwrapped.
– Now I hear jazz – it sounds like a trumpet. How is that possible? No, it’s the piano again, no jazz. Puzzling.
– White noise from the HVAC as it goes on and off. While on, it sounds a bit like the white noise you hear during an airplane flight.
– “Good to see you!” as a student greets another.
– Squeaky doors as they open and close.
– Jazz trumpet again. I figure it out, it’s either being played in the art gallery behind me, or being piped in somewhere. Whenever the piano quiets, you can hear the jazz.
– A warm (and surprised) hello from a faculty member who sees me. I am not a regular there, hence the surprise.
– The whirr of the vending machine as people make selections. It sounds a bit like the vacuum tube at a drive in window of a bank, where you put your check in the pod and then send it through the big tube to the teller.
– Piano is louder now and really, really pretty. This is not someone pounding out Chopsticks. This is someone with true talent. The music seems to shift between a more modern tempo, sometimes lilting. Gorgeous.
– A little awkward as I sink into my funky chair. It sits low, but it is comfortable once you get there.
– Nothing in particular for a long time.
– The girl next to me has a Subway sub, and I start to think I smell warm chicken, like one of their heated sandwiches.
– A few minutes later, the smell is stronger and really appealing. When I walk out, I realize there is a girl next to her who has a warm Einstein’s Bagel sandwich with some kind of wonderful savory aroma.
– Nothing. Though that savory bagel is calling my name.
Final thoughts – I love Scales. Love, love, love. Between the beautiful music and the bright colors and the people, it is a happy place to be. I saw so many people say hello, or hug each other, or have big smiles and squeals of delight when they saw each other – it just feels like a wonderfully collegial place to be. If your Deacs haven’t discovered the magic that is made in Scales, I hope they get on that in a hurry. Some of my happiest memories are there.
— by Betsy Chapman