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Minor Quake Destroys Prized Etch-a-Sketch Works
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HOT SPRINGS, North Carolina - The U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center reported a minor earthquake with a magnitude of 3.8 near Hot Springs Wednesday, near the North Carolina-Tennessee border. The quake occurred shortly after 11 p.m. While not generally damaging, the quake was felt by people in Wilkes County and Asheville. Though there were no injuries and only minor property damage, the quake did unfortunately "irreparably smear and/or erase" several works by the master Etch-a-Sketch artist, Jeff Gagliardi. Said the artist, "This is easily the saddest day of my life. Looking around the gallery, it's clear that nearly every piece has been turned upside down, and shaken."

"Nearly every piece has been turned upside down, and shaken."
-- Etch-a-Sketch Artist Jeff Gagliardi
Gagliardi's works often tour the nation under the title "My Turning Vision: The World in Graphite". His master work -- "Girl Wearing Braces" -- was thankfully not a part of the tour. "The amazing thing is," said gallery owner Michael Oharts, "We plan for this possibility during travel. When the pieces are packaged, when they're shipped, when they are unpackaged, throughout this process we have checklists that are followed to protect against just this type of tragedy. But once they are sitting in their glass enclosures, we assume they're safe. We were wrong."

Reportedly, the gallery's insurance company is also amazed. "Our investigation is only beginning," said a company representative, "But we have found it difficult to believe that such a minor temblor could manage to wreak this much damage. The fact that Mr. Oharts took out a half-million dollar policy against the event only the week before also raises eyebrows."

"I'm absolutely certain that the investigation will clear Michael," said Gagliardi, of the gallery owner, "He isn't in this business for the money. Like me, he simply loves art and loves making it available to the public. Money changes hands of course; there are bills to be paid. But he is simply not capable of destroying one-of-a-kind art works for financial gain."

Oharts was unavailable for comment, according to his attorney.
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