LEAP Ambassadors Explore Art, History, & Literature in Austin

It’s not often students can take off in the middle of a week, keep up with their assignments and, at the same time, learn a whole lot outside of the classroom.  But that’s exactly what happened with six students who took a two-day LEAP Center trip to Austin.

It may only have been two days, but it was jam-packed with learning, including engagement with Mass Communication, Texas History, Literature, Politics, Management, Art, and even architecture!

Bob Bullock by Chase Kenemmer

            The learning began with the Bullock History Museum, which is an extraordinary history exhibit in the state of Texas, dedicated to the history of Texas, and the progression the state has undergone.  When we first entered the museum the sense of awe swept over the group; we could feel the history come to life as we entered through the giant doorways. The museum was packed with children and adults for a special “Home School” day, as we were corralled through the opening to the first floor. We were greeted by the immense remnants of the French naval ship “la Belle” that sunk as French colonists tried to settle in an uncharted region of Texas.

Flash-forward to the next floor, we see the history come to life as actors described the stories of Mexican President, Santa Anna, flooding the State of Texas with his army, the fall of the Alamo, and the victorious battle of San Jacinto led by General Sam Houston.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

As we transition through the rooms, we see the Texas History woven into American History; the Annexation of Texas. There is a brief pause in between the Reconstruction Era and the Modern, we can see the Goddess of Liberty, which sits upon the Texas Capital building to guide her people into the modern era.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

We also had a chance to learn more about Sam Houston…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

…Reconstruction…SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

..and even had a chance to see some cowboy roping take place!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

Interview with Stephen Harrigan by Chase Kenemmer

It’s not every day a Sam Houston student gets to help interview a famous Texan author, but today Beatriz and I both took time out to help Professor Yawn and Michael Foster interview and film author Stephen Harrigan.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

Professor Yawn talked with Mr. Harrigan, while Beatriz and I worked with Mr. Michael Foster, the Sam Houston’s Video Producer, to fix the lighting and block out the green dull light. He showed us that putting a thin blue cover over the light will naturally even the lighting to what we needed. We helped put the mic on Mr. Harrigan, and the interview began.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

The interview lasted about an hour long and we learned interesting things about Mr. Harrigan’s new work, some interesting history facts, and what we can expect at Sam Houston’s Honors College event “Let’s Talk”; where Mr. Harrigan will sit and talk about his work as an author and screenplay writer. Towards the end of the interview, we discussed the exciting process of writing a book, and the skills it takes to become a writer.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

Both Beatriz and I learned that it takes a special skill to record and produce videos, as well as writing and publishing books.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

New World Deli Lunch by Christina Perez

Before heading to the students favorite Austin art gallery, we headed over to grab a quick lunch. They decided to try Stephanie’s suggestion of New World Deli. The deli was in the heart of the city. Open since 1997, the cozy family owned restaurant is known for its excellent soups, sandwiches, and salads.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, New World Deli

They ordered some of the house favorites like their “Award Winning” Reuben and their broccoli cheese and tomato basil soups. The restaurant had a lot of different art on the wall and opened conversation about art appreciation. This made us excited for the next part of our day!

Daniel Arredondo Studio and the Shoal Creek Gallery by Sawyer Massie

After lunch, we all hurried into the front lobby of the Shoals Creek Art Gallery to escape the brisk winter breeze. Immediately, the famous pieces by James Surls gallantly presented themselves on three of the four walls of the room.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, James Surls

While marveling at the beautiful displays of modernist artistry could have taken all of our allotted time, Professor Yawn eagerly escorted us to the studio of Mr. Daniel Arredondo.  We stared in admiration at the entire walls and floors that were lined with painted cigar boxes and impressionist landscapes on canvas. Mr. Arredondo recognized Professor Yawn and his face lit up as he excitedly greeted every newcomer as a friend.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

Most of our time was spent learning about Mr. Arredondo’s latest works and about his previous career as an assembly-line worker for IBM. He explained that many of his works that involved trees with visible roots beneath the horizon represented people and their deepest secrets.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

One thing that remained constant, however, was his enthusiastic and wholesome outlook on life and work. Many of us left his studio with gifts that he painted because, “anyone who comes to my studio and listens to me talk shouldn’t leave empty-handed.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

With smiles on our faces and beautiful works of art in hand, we continued on our tour of the rest of the gallery. This took us to an exhibit on Lorena Morales, a Houston based artist which included the intricate translucent pipe sculptures of varying shapes and colors. Some pieces included a row of piping hung on the wall while others were stood alone and rested on the ground. Most interesting, however, was the message of perspective behind these works and how standing in a certain place could change the entire aesthetic of the piece. In the back of the gallery was a smaller exhibit that included colorful pieces of varying art styles and artists.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors

There, we observed all of the motifs and styles of the different artists and discussed what we enjoyed about each piece. It is safe to say that each of us left with a newer appreciation of art and expression.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

Harry Ransom Center and James Turrell Skyspace by Christina

            We made a quick stop was to see the Gutenberg Bible at the Harry Ransom Center. One of the first printed books, there are only around 40 existing today in the entire United States. It was impressive to learn that we had one in Texas and so close to Huntsville. We accidentally continued the art motif after by getting glitter coffee…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors

…before heading over to the James Turrell Skyspace. The University of Texas at Austin has a wonderful “Landmarks” program that includes one the twelve Skyspaces open to visitors in the United States. The LEAP Ambassadors have visited about five Sky Spaces all together, but this time we brought some new friends along. As they walked into the Skyspace we could see the glowing faces of the first timers when they looked up at “The Color Inside.”  Tyara and Ilexus had never been to a Skyspace so this was a sure treat for them! “It was an eye-opening experience,” said Ilexus. The colors shifted from blues to grays and from pinks and purples.

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It is always very relaxing to sit through the show and wait for the sun to set completely. They were glad that their new friends enjoyed the experience and were happy to learn about a new type of art.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, James Turrell, UT Skyspace

Habesha Ethiopian Dinner by Beatriz

            As our last outing we went to go eat Ethiopian food in a restaurant. It was not a regular meal. Since most of us had not tried Ethiopian food, we ordered the Habesha Special Meat Combination Platter, that came with assorted meats to try.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Habesha, Ethiopian Food

Although different than the regular cheeseburger and the use of injera bread as a utensil instead of a spoon or fork. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially when dessert time came around and “exotic” vanilla ice cream, tiramisu, and baklava. With special end, we headed back to our hotel, looking forward to getting a tour at the Capitol tomorrow.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, James Turrell, Skyspace, UT Austin


Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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