The LEAP students embarked on another weekend trip to Houston filled with fun exploration, murder mysteries, and a well-needed reunion with alumni and friends of LEAP. For our first stop, we visited a LEAP favorite, “Cloud Column” By Anish Kapoor.
Interestingly, Maggie and Ilexus recently had fun experimenting with taking pictures with Kapoor’s most famous work in Chicago: “The Bean”.
The Museum of Fine Arts Houston- Ilexus
The LEAP students have visited many Art galleries over the years. However, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston was a new experience for all but one LEAP student. The first piece we studied was set up in the lobby of the museum. City of Abstracts by William Forsythe was by far the most amusing and interactive piece in the entire museum.
This piece displayed an expansive video installation that acts as a mirror. However, the video distorts your image when you create movement. The LEAP students enjoyed turning ourselves into twisting figures.
Another interesting piece we saw was James Turrell’s The Light Inside. James Turrell is well known for his use of light and space. This piece included a long tunnel that projects light from both ends. The walls of the tunnel create a space to diffuse the light throughout the room.
LEAP students have also had the opportunity to experience Turrell’s Skyspace in many cities across the US.
Next, we discovered many LEAP Favorites such as Alexander Calder, who is known for his mobile sculptures.
Interestingly, LEAP students discovered a Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock side by side. Jackson Pollock was a protege of Thomas Hart Benton and studied under him as a young artist. It was hard to believe that Man With a Plow was a Pollock…
…because it is not his typical “drip painting” style.
Furthermore, this piece was a direct emulation of Benton.
However, Pollock was not enthused by Benton’s rural American subjects. Nonetheless, the movement and rhythm that Benton created on the canvas continued to influence Pollock’s future work.
Next, we viewed impressionist painters. The most renowned is Claude Monet, who is the founder of French impressionist painting.
His most known subjects include stacks of wheat, water lilies, and his home garden in Giverny. We were surprised to see that the subject of this piece was a windmill and almost did not recognize that it was a Monet.
We also spotted the two original impressionist women artist: Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot.
Additionally, we saw work by post-impressionist artist Georges Seurat…
whose most famous work LEAP students were able to see at the Chicago Art Institute.
As we learn more, we recognize more artists, paintings, and art styles at each new museum, making each additional visit more rewarding. We can now recognize a Picasso, whom we see at almost every Museum we visit…
…and, of course, Mark Rothko…
…and even when we don’t recognize an artist, we can identify styles such as pointillism….
…or the Hudson River School.
And we always try to learn new artists, such as Stanton Macdonald Wright.
….and Luis Jimenez…
…and Paul Signac…
Lastly, we visited a special exhibit by Ragnar Kjartanssonon titled The Visitors. This exhibit included a room full of nine projection screens that displayed different musicians. Of the musicians, there was a cellist, a pianist, a banjo player, an accordionist, a drummer, and two guitarists, who are all playing the same song, simultaneously, but in separate rooms and presented on different screens. Just by watching the multiple videos from screen to screen, the audience became “the visitors”. This exhibit was amazing. The harmonies among all of the musicians were captivating.
After completing our exploration of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and in preparation for our murder mystery play, the LEAP students took a quick stop by Murder By The Book, which is a local bookstore solely dedicated to mystery and crime books. Also, the LEAP Students stopped by The Brazos Bookstore. A few of the LEAP students ended up purchasing a few books.
Following our bookstore stop, we headed to our hotel to prepare for our night with Friends of LEAP and Junior Fellow and LEAP Ambassador Alumni.
Dinner with Alumni – Makayla
All dressed up for the anticipated play, we made our way into Café Express for dinner. Once inside, some of us found familiar faces as we hugged Junior Fellow and LEAP Ambassador Alumni. We made introductions for those who had not met before and jumped in line to order food.
Café Express had a lot of options for us to pick from; everything from soups, salads, and pasta to burgers, Mediterranean salmon, and Spanish chicken romesco.
As we grabbed our seats, we began mingling with the alumni and their spouses. They shared their best memories and reminisced on their time in the organization. It was a great opportunity to get Junior Fellows and LEAP Ambassador Alumni’s insight of their time at Sam Houston. Additionally, we discussed how LEAP and SHSU as a whole has evolved over time. The alumni also told us about their current careers. Megan O’Flaherty, former president of the Junior Fellows, works as the Executive Assistant at Arnold Ventures, formally known as Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Justin Beiser, former Vice President of the Junior Fellows, is an attorney for Shell. Cameron Goodman, former Junior Fellow, is currently the Director of Economic Development for the City of Richmond. Jessica Rodriguez, former Junior Fellow and Austin Intern, is an attorney at Ramsey Law Group. Bianca Saldierna, a former LEAP Ambassador, works at Woodforest National Bank as a fraud investigator. Megan Chapa, former President of the LEAP Ambassadors, is a 3L at South Texas College of Law, and an intern at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Alex Galvan, also a LEAP President, served as President of the UH Law School’s Student Bar Association, and is now a 3L, while clerking at a mid-size law firm. Finally, Christian Bionat is the District Director for US Representative Pete Olson. Needless to say, our alumni are very successful!
After a great dinner discussion, we piled into our vehicles and made our way to the Alley Theater.
Murder on the Orient Express-Maggie
The main event of the evening was a trip to the Alley Theater to watch “Murder on the Orient Express”, based on the Agatha Christie novel, featuring the world-renowned detective Hercule Poirot.
I decided to read the book before attending the play because I was interested in how they would turn a published novel into a stage act. Only having been to the theater once before this event, I wasn’t sure of what to expect. Professor Yawn has recommended Agatha Christie books before and this event gave me an excuse to finally sit down and read about the adventures of Hercule Poirot. The famous novel is about a murder that takes place on a train in Europe, the book was published in 1934, and the book and play are set in that same era.
The novel was the first murder mystery I have ever read and was thoroughly enjoyable. Because the entire novel is set on a train, I was looking forward to seeing how the stage would be set in the theater. I was not disappointed.
The stage had two levels, the bottom being a normal set up where larger scenes took place, and the top resembling the interior of a partial dining car and passenger sleeping compartments.
I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the theater and how close we were to the stage, my previous experience having been in the “nose-bleed seats” of another theater.
I also had the chance to discuss the book with John Michael (a guest of Alejandra Galvan), and he described some Christie’s other books that I might want to read (in particular, “And Then There Were None.”)
The play at the Alley reduced the number of characters–probably a space decision–and also injected a great deal of humor. Also of interest to me was the greater drama that the in-person experience of the stage offers. Having the chance to see how talented actors imagine a scene or dialogue adds magic to the performance.
Also of note: one of the passengers aboard the Orient Express was played by Melissa Pritchett, a graduate of Sam Houston State University with a BFA in Musical Theater.
I thought the entire cast did a fantastic job creating suspense and tension on stage, famously resembling the works of Agatha Christie thrillers. Of course, Hercule Poirot was the star, but Shawn Hamilton and Elizabeth Bunch also stood out among the stellar cast. Poor Chris Hutchison, who played the victim, had to play dead for most of the two-plus hour play.
Overall, the play was well worth the trip to the theater and I look forward to reading more novels by Agatha Christie.
Our night of mystery was nothing short of amazing. However, It would not have been a success without the alumni and friends who attended. LEAP would like to thank all of the Alumni and friends of LEAP for coming together to reconnect the current LEAP Ambassadors with those who came before us and friends who give continuous support. We truly appreciate the standard you have set for this organization and will continue to follow that path.