By Kaitlyn Tyra
Ready for our next adventure, the LEAP Ambassadors eagerly awoke in Washington, D.C.! This visit to D.C. was motivated by the unveiling of a bust of Sam Houston by Elizabet Ney in the Ways and Means Committee Room, but we took advantage of the opportunity and started our trip off with sightseeing!
Our first stop was the National Mall. We began through the South side of the mall with the Jefferson Memorial. The morning air was cool and the city was still calm, as it was fairly early on a Saturday morning. We were amazed by the grandeur of the Jeffersonian dome and the simple elegance it displayed. We learned about Thomas Jefferson’s background in farming and architecture, and his role in founding the United States.
We also enjoyed reading some of his most impactful writings which are engraved into the stone walls of the rotunda, while also just soaking in the beauty of the area.
Following the walkway through the mall we traveled through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and Korean War Memorial. In each was something to admire. The FDR Memorial’s linear design made out of granite was reminiscent of his iconic Works Project Administration.
In this Memorial we also enjoyed viewing art by George Segal, whose sculpture, “Soup Line,” reflects the depression-era hardships faced during FDR’s administration.
Inspired by MLK’s famous “I have a Dream” speech, the MLK monument embodies his words: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”
The Korean War Memorial commemorates those who fought in the Korean War with a black granite wall, stainless steel statues, and a reflecting pool.
Each element of the Memorial was impactful for us to see and was strengthened by the Korean War Veterans viewing the memorial who were sharing their stories with visitors.
One of the most well-known monuments, the Lincoln Memorial was our favorite to visit.
The size of Abraham Lincoln made the monument grand. The Memorial was crowded, but we managed to steal a picture with Abe!
After visiting with James Reston and learning about the Vietnam War Memorial, we were eager to observe the wall with a new perspective.
The wall, inscribed with the names of those who lost their lives in the war, weighed heavily among many of its visitors hearts.
After visiting the World War II Memorial, we finished our National Mall tour with the Washington Monument. After 2.3 miles, we were tired from our walk, but that was only the beginning of our day!
By Karla Rosales
After a long walk around the National Mall, we were ready for some lunch so decided to walk to the National Museum of the American Indian and have lunch at their café, Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe. As we arrived, we noticed the café offered native foods from different regions of the New World such as the Northern Woodlands, South America, Northwest Coast, and the Great Plains.
However, most lines were long as it was still lunch time. Some of us (Brian, Kaitlyn, and I) decided to not be adventures and got the Bison burgers while Christina tried the salmon with chipotle sweet potatoes. After grabbing this quick breather, we continued on our D.C. excursion.
By Christina Perez
On our way to the Holocaust Museum we veered off of our planned route to visit the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Before entering we explored the outside architecture and even posed for a photo by the giant waterfall.
As we headed in we noticed that one of the exhibits at the Hirshhorn was “ What absence is made of.” It had five categories of art that included the dematerialization of the art object, the body in pieces, close to nothing, momento, and the posthuman body (if you haven’t guessed it by now, it was a contemporary art museum). We had mixed reactions to the art.
Some of the artist included in this exhibit were Ed Atkins, Annette Lemieux, and Huang Yong Ping.
The LEAP Ambassadors had many favorites and were even able to have some fun in the interactive part of the exhibit. I was mostly amazed by Ai Weiwei who is known as one of China’s best artists. He, like other artists, has spent most of his career learning about the connections that art, society, and politics have with each other. One of his more impressive creations is his Lego portrait exhibit that uses more than 1.2 million Legos to depict political prisoners across the world.
Of course we couldn’t leave without looking around at the beautiful sculpture garden. We saw many artists we knew, and a few we didn’t.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
By Brian Aldaco
After wrapping up our tour of the Hirshhorn Museum we walked West down the National Mall towards our next destination. We began our day by viewing memorials to some of the most historical events in our nation’s history. We would now resume this historical learning with our visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, where we were greeted by a Joel Shapiro sculpture.
To begin the tour, visitors must enter an elevator that leads towards the top floor of the museum. Upon entrance to the elevator I was given an “Identification Card.” The pocket sized booklet that I now had told the story of a real life survivor of the Holocaust. His name was Walter Schnell. Born to a Jewish family, at the age of 33, in the year 1937, he was removed from his home in Breslau, Germany, by Nazi troopers. The story of the religious persecution he lived through, the torture he endured, and the tyrannical government that caused it, would now unfold before me and the rest of the LEAP Ambassadors as we moved through the exhibits.
The initial exhibits showed the rise of the Nazi regime. One section of the exhibit displayed dozens of piled up books. This was to demonstrate how the Nazi government initiated a campaign of burning “un-German” literature. This campaign was so disastrous that in one evening in Berlin, over 25,000 books where burned in the public square. But as we continued to view more exhibits, we learned that the atrocities committed by this regime spanned farther and graver.
Over the course of Hitler’s murderous rule, two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population were killed in concentrations camps, Nazi-organized Jewish ghettos, and death camps. One of the methods by which Nazi officers would achieve this massive extermination was by trapping men, women, and children in sealed chambers and dousing them with lethal gas. This death was painful, and every display in the museum conveyed this sense of pain and injustice that spoiled major parts of the 20th century. The most poignant display exhibited hundreds of shoes that were recovered from the Majdanek concentration camp and now laid throughout the floor. Inscribed in the room’s wall was the writing of Yiddish poet, Moses Schulstein, that read:
We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers
From Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam,
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire.
With a knot in my stomach, I followed the rest of the group towards the last of the museum’s exhibits.
American Art Museum/Union Station
By Karla Rosales
Before having dinner, we decided to make a short stop by the Smithsonian American Art Museum where we saw artists familiar and new. We began with a Portrait Gallery of the United States Presidents.
As we moved through the museum, we found art by Jesus Moroles…
…whom we knew well from his art in Huntsville (largely obtained through Linda Pease’s hard work). We also saw work by SHSU Alum James Surls….
We were in a hurry, but Professor Yawn took us on a lightning tour of specific pieces, such as a sculpture of Sam Houston…
…and a 3D printed sculpture of Maya Lin…
…a piece by Austin artist Elizabet Ney of Lady MacBeth, one so beautiful it prompted Brian to propose…
One of the fun things about such a trip is the ability to make connections with our other trips. Most of the artists (or artists’ subjects) above we first learned about through our travels or studies with the LEAP Center (e.g., Elizabet Ney, James Surls, Jesus Moroles, Maya Lin, Gilbert Stuart), and we were amazed at how often things we had previously encountered popped up again. We saw a Deborah Butterfield horse, which we’ve seen in numerous locations (Lubbock and Denver, for example)…
…and Thomas Hart Benton….
…and Albert Bierstadt….
…and Roy Lichtenstein…
And we had a chance to enjoy all of this while listening to beautiful music!
Even though we were exhausted and had walked more than 20 thousand steps, we decided to walk another mile to Union Station for dinner. On our way to dinner we walked by Chinatown which was an interesting area, but we didn’t get to explore it much as it was getting late and we had quite a walk ahead of us. When we finally arrived at Union Station we were all amazed by the beautiful structure of the building.
It was nothing like what we expected! This time, Christina and Karla decided to go for burgers from Shake Shack while Kaitlyn and Brian were a little for adventurous and went for Mediterranean food. Overall, we all had a great day in D.C. filled with fun adventures and lots of learning.
We were still about a mile from the hotel, and we were so tired that the youngsters decided to taxi it back to the hotel.
It was a little embarrassing, because despite being much younger than Professor Yawn and Stephanie, they were not beset by our fatigue nor afflicted with our laziness, and they continued the day’s excursion on foot.
We are grateful for the opportunities provided for us and we are looking forward to a great week!