By Beatriz Martinez and Kaitlyn Tyra
Living close to one of the largest cities in the US, it is always tempting to visit the hustle and bustle of Houston. With 375 developed parks under the City of Houston Parks Department and an established art community in the city, the LEAP Ambassadors planned a weekend itinerary full of parks and art museums. To kick off our weekend, we gathered old and new friends to join us in our visit to of one of Houston’s newest marvels.
In the dark, mysterious cavern, a group of around 30 people waited in anticipation for one of Houston’s most unique art performances.
The LEAP Ambassadors were meeting other SHSU alumni that had previously been either a LEAP Ambassador or Junior Fellow at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. As special guests, Mark Burns and Betty Moody accompanied us throughout this expedition.
The Cistern is an 87,500-square foot underground reservoir much in resemblance to the ancient Roman cisterns in Istanbul. This city reservoir was constructed in 1926 to provide fire suppression and store drinking water. In 2007, it was put out of commission when it sprang a leak that was never located or contained.
Three years later, this historical landsite was about to be demolished. However, around that same time, the Buffalo Bayou Park Partnership was working on the Buffalo Bayou Park project when they happened to discover the cistern. They acquired a $1.2 million grant from the Brown Foundation to remodel the space and repurpose it for art installations.
Which is exactly what Venezuelan artists Magdalena Fernandez used it for.
With its 18-inches of water and its 221-25ft tall columns, this imposing structure was the perfect medium for the art installment that Fernandez had in mind. With the help of the a-cappella Slovenian choir, Perpetuum Jazzile, she orchestrated an installation that appeals to sight and sound alike.
With snaps, hand slaps, stomps, and drumming, the Perpetuum Jazzile were able to emulate the sound of rain. With the accompaniment of a light show that danced across the stern columns, she created a space that emanated the sense of being in the middle of a rain storm.
Thunder and lightning struck, as well as wonder and amazement while in the cistern. With old and new friends to enjoy it with, Rain -as the installation is appropriately titled- was a wondrous experience.
The Cistern, located just outside of downtown Houston, also served as a wonderful spot for a reunion photograph!
Following our tour of the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, our group met at Black Walnut Café. There, past and present Ambassadors visited with each other while specials guest Betty Moody joined the reunion. Sampling a number of meals such as the Doc Krazy turkey burger, a french dip sandwich, and the spicy jalapeno chicken pasta, we enjoyed the meal almost as much as the pleasant conversation.
Before the evening ended, LEAP Ambassadors thanked our graduating members- Alex, Megan, and Jessica- with well wishes and gifts. Megan, Alex, and Jessica will all be heading to different law schools in the fall.
Additionally, we made sure to thank Ryan Brim, who graduated high school this semester and will pursue an engineering degree at the University of Arkansas. Most amusing from this gift giving, was Ryan’s college-prep present. It consisted of a shower caddy with travel sized shampoos and soaps. Participating in ten years of LEAP events and trips, for the past few years he has used our hotel lodgings to save on toiletry expenses by collecting shampoos and soaps. A peculiar habit indeed, it is certain that Ryan would rather not have his secret revealed in such a public setting.
Dinner continued with a myriad of conversion. From table to table, alumni shared advise with current students, a dedicated art gallery owner shared her work experience with engaged listeners, while other students mingled with each other on future job opportunities. Enclosed in the room was the resonant sound of joyful conversation that could only come from friends happy to se each other.
As conversation receded, the evening ended as alumni and guests headed home. For the LEAP Ambassadors, we were thankful for our visit with friends and headed to our hotel to prepare for the rest of our Houston Arts and Parks Tour.