The heART of the City: Big Fun in Huntsville

By Staci Antu

After two successful and fun sessions of heART of Huntsville, we were excited for the grand finale on our third session. We started off at the Huntsville Statue and Visitor Center, where we met Visitor Services Coordinator, Jamie Matthews.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Huntsville Statue and Visitor Center

She began by giving us an overview of the different attractions in Huntsville such as the “Big Sam” statue which has brought in numerous of tourists to the city. A map of the world was marked with pins showing the variety of countries that tourists come in from every continent (excluding Antartica).

A short video designed by the Animation Department at SHSU in partnership with the City of Huntsville explained the history behind General Sam Houston and the process its sculptor, David Adickes, implemented to build the statue. As the clip met its end we walked towards “Big Sam” and observed its beauty up close followed by a group picture at the base of the 67-foot statue!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Huntsville Statue and Visitor Center, A Profile in Courage, Big Sam, David Adickes

Led by Huntsville expert Professor Yawn, we began our tour around town, seeing outdoor sculptures and attractions along the way.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Huntsville Tour, Mike Yawn

Driving from the visitor center towards the city, Professor Yawn explained that the Goree Prison Unit had been a women’s unit and also talked about the issues of including inmates and students in Huntsville’s population.

Our first stop was “Made in the Shade” by John Stewart. As our bus driver skillfully maneuvered his way through Fire Station 1’s driveway, we admired the sculpture laying its stone body along Sam Houston Avenue. Stewart sculpted the piece to commemorate the deceased astronauts aboard the Challenger in 1986.

Our next stop was located on University Ave, where we saw a slew of older homes: the Ashford Home (once used a funeral parlor), the Rogers-Baird Home, and the old Smither Warehouse.

We then headed to Oakwood Cemetery. At the cemetery, we viewed the bronze replica of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen’s “Christus,” popularly known as the “Comforting Christ.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville,, Oakwood Cemetery, Thorwaldsen's Christ

There are four copies of the sculpture in the United States (that we know of), one of which is rumored to be in a cemetery in San Antonio. The Oakwood Cemetery version was commissioned by the Powell family to honor their youngest son who died at age 5 during a tonsillectomy surgery. We are very thankful that Mark Burns provided copies of a black-and-white photograph of the sculpture for the heART of Huntsville group. It was a memorable experience to see one of the most famous sculptures of Christ dedicated to the youngest son in the Powell family and go home with a special photograph by Mr. Burns.

After the cemetery, it was time to meet for dinner at Carbonero’s a Salvadorian cuisine restaurant where we enjoyed delicious tacos, enchiladas, and pupusas.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Carbonero

As always, the food was phenomenal! But the treats were not only reserved for dinner.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Carbonero

After we finished off our plates, we headed to the David Adickes Foundation. The repurposed Huntsville High School walls and hallways were decorated with Adickes’ breath taking paintings.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation

Ms. Linda Wiley, the Adickes Foundation curator, welcomed us to the foundation and she and Mr. Adickes offered a brief introduction to the gallery.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation

With his well known charisma, Mr. Adickes told us tales of his art and his time in the military, a time that he described with “the war was over, it was king of boring.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation, David Adickes

But as he told us, his travels to Europe where put to good use as he garnered a passion for painting.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation, David Adickes

Among the collections we noticed a peculiar photograph of Elvis Presley and his living room. What got our attention were a series of paintings hanging on the corner of the photographed wall. It turns out The King was a fan of Mr. Adickes and had purchased three of his paintings. After Elvis’ death, Mr. Adickes discovered the paintings and bought them back!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation, David Adickes

After enjoying Mr. Adickes’ adventure travel stories, he joined us in front of his favorite artwork to take a group selfie with the LEAP Ambassadors, former SHSU President Dr. James Gaertner, his wife Nancy Gaertner, and Ms. Wiley.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation, David Adickes

We were also very lucky to get individual pictures with Mr. Adickes in front of the ambassador’s favorite!

The Adickes Foundation tour was a great way to end our final session of heART of Huntsville. We were all happy to have gotten a chance to enjoy one of Huntsville’s best kept secrets!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation, David Adickes

The Greatest Film of All Time? A night with “Casablanca”

By Victoria McClendon-Leggett

The problems of six people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world, so we put our problems aside and drove to Houston to watch “Casablanca,” the film that the American Film Institute identified as the third greatest movie in Hollywood history.  But, first, we went to the restaurant that is one of Professor Yawn’s favorites: “Peli, Peli,” which offers African food with a Colonial twist.

Four of us ordered the Chicken Espetada, which was brought to our table on a hanging skewer dripping with garlic butter…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Peli Peli

…while the other two (more adventurous) of us ordered the special for that evening, grilled and sliced beef tongue. Surprisingly, everyone was willing to try bits and pieces of the tongue, and it was deemed quite tasty by all. After a delicious dinner came a mouthwatering dessert of Chocolate Mousse Cake and Melktart Brulee. The experience was truly unique, but excitement was yet to come as we headed toward the cinema.

Released in 1943, Casablanca starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid. This work of Hollywood’s Golden Age is considered by nearly all to be a classic. On this 75th anniversary showing, the theater was packed with movie fans ready for the 102 minute adventure.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Casablanca

While watching the film, it was fun to notice the many different phrases that were made popular and are still in use today because of this movie. It was neat to learn that phrases such as, “Round up the usual suspects,” and “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” come from this timeless classic. The film masterfully blends drama, comedy, romance, and even a bit of action. Casablanca truly is a work of art, and if you haven’t seen it, take the time to do so. We did!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Casablanca
                                                                      “We’ll Always Have Paris”

 

 

Art & Photography on the Fly: Caddo Lake & Marshall, TX

“A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.” William Wordsworth may have never seen Caddo Lake, yet it is a perfect way to describe the effect of the lake’s beauty. On this second day at the lake we were now set out to capture this captivating grandeur through the lens of Mark Burns.

Daybreak Voyage, By Ryan Knesek

The LEAP Ambassadors met with photographer Mark Burns early in the morning to continue with our documentary process. As you may remember, Mr. Burns has been a part of the National Parks Project where he photographed all fifty-nine national parks in black and white.

On this expedition to Caddo Lake he focused mainly on the color scheme of the autumn cypress during the dawn hours while taking wildlife photos here and there.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns
Photo by Mark Burns

LEAP Ambassadors were able to converse with the accomplished photographer and expand their knowledge of composition, lighting, and color scheme in photography.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

Being amateur photographers, we benefit from the knowledge he provides–even if it isn’t evident in our own photos!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Caddo Lake

And as we saw the beautiful landscapes of the lake and the graceful wildlife, we set these newly learned skills into practice.

Starr Home, By Ryan Knesek

After meeting with Mark Burns in Uncertain, Texas, Leap Ambassadors found themselves in the city of Marshall. There, Ambassadors toured the historic Starr Family House, a Victorian-style home that was built with the money from the Starr’s land possessions.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

Dr. James Harper Star was commissioned as president of the board of land commissioners and receiver of the land dues for Nacogdoches County by Sam Houston in 1837. The tour showcased refurbished wood flooring and antiques that were unique to the home. Art, woodworking, and portraits illustrated the family’s status when the Starrs had guests at home. Now, years after the owners’ lifetime, their elegant lifestyle is still admired.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

Among the most interesting aspects of the home were all its artifacts. Ambassador Makayla and I were even allowed to use one of these artifacts, the stereograph.  This contraption functioned as early 3-dimensional glasses for photography and was the first time that Makayla and I had used now.

As one would imagine, the home showed portals into the past through its architecture and artifacts.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

One interesting aspect of history while touring the home was Dr. Starr’s relationship with Sam Houston. Apparently, Dr. Starr owned land close to land owned by Sam Houston in Nacogdoches. However, land disputes arose while they were neighbors and Dr. Starr tired to sue the celebrated revolutionary war hero. Although this part of the home’s history didn’t show the most amiable side of the family, through touring the home the LEAP Ambassadors were able to expand their knowledge of the town of Marshall and its connection to Sam Houston.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

Lunch at R & R Bakery, by Christina Perez

After the LEAP Ambassadors finished their tour of the Starr Family Home tour, we headed to lunch. We arrived in historic downtown Marshall, Texas…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Harrison County Courthouse

and pulled into R & R Bakery and Coffee Shop. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by friendly staff and sat down ready to enjoy our meal. As we waited on Sierra and Sarah to arrive we shared our favorite things about the sunrise tour.  We discussed the birds, the colors of the trees, and our favorite part of the tour.  Ryan got the South Western roast beef sandwich with jalapeño bread and a garden salad on the side and lets just say he enjoyed his meal, clearly evidenced by a clean plate a few minutes after his order arrived. After lunch we shared some desserts, apple cinnamon scones for some and choclate chip cookies for others. It was a sweet way to enjoy the afternoon.

Michelson Museum of Art, By Makayla Mason

With such a filling lunch, we decided to walk it off with a small shopping session through town. Our wallets turned to the various antique shops along N. Washington Ave. And even though we could have spent longer at the shops, we made our way to the Michelson Museum of Art.

Opened in May 1985, the museum houses hundreds of pieces of art by artist Leo Michelson. The museum was founded following a donation from Leo Michelson’s widow. The donation consisted of more than 1,000 of Michelson’s art pieces.

Today, the museum consists of Michelson’s work, as well as works from locally and nationally recognized artists. The traveling exhibit that was currently at the museum was of illustrator Marla Frazee.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

Frazee has illustrated several well-known children’s books such as The Boss Baby, Clementine, Stars, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever and even one of my favorite book series, The Borrowers.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

The Ambassadors enjoyed looking through books they remembered reading when they were younger and appreciated the detailed illustrations.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

The other exhibit at the museum was “Our Artists and their Selfies.”

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

This exhibit contained thirteen artists with pieces of their work paired with their self-portrait and a list of highly-recognized art museums that feature each artist.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

One of the thirteen artists was Henri Matisse, a name familiar to the LEAP Ambassadors, so we decided to take a selfie!

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art, Henri Matisse

But from indoor art…we went back to the natural art of Caddo Lake. Sunset and sunrise lighting conditions are far from the same. That is why it was important for Mark Burns to return to the lake during the late afternoon. Swaying in the tranquil waters of the lake, Mr. Burns continued to look for that perfect spot to photograph.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

During his National Parks Project, he spent five years visiting and revisiting parks. This search, as you can tell, is continuous and ever changing. Even though we had been here over the summer, the lake is not under the same conditions as before.

“Water levels have fallen by three feet,” Wes, our captain and tour guide, told us.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

This affects the composition of Mr. Burns’s photos since cypress roots are more visible. Of course the most prominent change is the fall colors in the foliage of the cypress trees.  This is such an important trait of the lake since it changes the format in which Mr. Burns takes his photos.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

Now that the fall colors are so rich, Burns sought the right light for the perfect color.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns
Photo by Mark Burns

Tomorrow will be our last chance, for now, to get the last few shots of the lake. As we returned to Marshall for dinner we reminisced on the day’s success. We even got to see a few of the photos that Mr. Burns had taken through out the day. With excitement in our step and a show of confidence…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Harrison County Courthouse

…we returned to the hotel welcoming tomorrow’s adventures.

Honoring Sacrifice: HEARTS Veterans Day Gala, 2017

For the tenth time in ten years, the LEAP Ambassadors assisted with the annual HEARTS Veterans Gala.  More than 300 community members gathered at the HEARTS Conference Center for dinner, reflection, and companionship on November 11, Veterans Day.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, HEARTS Veterans Museum, Veterans Day Gala

The event MC was Col. Don Beal…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, HEARTS Veterans Museum, Veterans Day Gala

…and the Huntsville Men’s Choir was featured throughout the evening.  They performed six songs, including everyone’s favorite, “The Armed Forces Medley.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, HEARTS Veterans Museum, Veterans Day Gala

The LEAP Ambassadors greeted guests, assisted guests with seating, sponsored a table, and assisted with the silent auction, which raises money for ROTC scholarships.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, HEARTS Veterans Museum, Veterans Day Gala

During the evening, the HEARTS Museum staff honored various community members and volunteers for their service, including Karen Murff…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, HEARTS Veterans Museum, Veterans Day Gala

…Norman Ward, Dr. Tommy Davis, Betty Higgins, and John Sicola…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, HEARTS Veterans Museum, Veterans Day Gala

reinforcing the community aspect of the gathering.

And, speaking of which, it was enjoyable for us to see old friends, such as County Judge Danny Pierce, Judge Hal Ridley, Thomas Leeper…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, HEARTS Veterans Museum, Veterans Day Gala

…Captain Steve Fisher, Charlotte Olienik, Liesa Hackett, Bette Nelson, and many others.

It was a nice reminder the sacrifice made by our veterans and the important role of volunteerism in our community.