Big Bend Bound: Via San Antonio

By Maggie Denena,

The LEAP Center arrived in San Antonio around noon today and stopped for lunch at a local treasure, Mi Tierra. After navigating through the city to a public parking lot, we made our way around the block to the Historic Downtown Market, where Hispanic heritage runs thick. We checked into Mi Tierra with a 30 minute wait list, so we made the most of it by visiting the local shops and stands.

There were quite a few interesting characters, including but not limited to a dancing lady…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Mi Tierra, Market Square

…and a Hispanic Elvis, plus the local food stands smelled amazing. Finally, we made our way back to Professor Yawn in the restaurant lobby just in time: our wait buzzer went off and we were ready to be seated. The restaurant was very colorful, with lights and banners running along the ceiling and walls.


Once we sat down, we all spent a quiet few minutes looking though the menu—everything sounded so good it was hard to make a decision. Professor Yawn ordered queso flameado and guacamole for the table. The queso flameadio was so thick we had cheese-pull competitions, and the guacamole was some of the best I’ve ever had. I ordered the lunch special, enchiladas, but I was so full from our appetizers that I was only able to finish one of the two on my plate. I now understand why the restaurant was so packed!

After we had all that we could possibly eat, we headed out for another stroll through the market, where we found a mechanical bull.  Of course, I couldn’t resist! 

SHSU, LEAP Center, Mi Tierra, Market Square, Maggie Denena

After my impromptu rodeo, we headed to our next stop, which was the McNay Art Museum.
By Peyton Reed

The first interesting thing I noticed about the McNay Museum is the location. The museum was designed as a large house, with each room holding various paintings that flowed together seamlessly, arranged by various characteristics such as color, technique, period and artist. The winding path to get to the entrance of the museum passed by several sculptures by Robert Indiana, George Rickey, and Alexander Liberman, to name a few.

 The featured exhibition is titled “Immersed,” an interactive and compelling exhibit featuring pieces from Andy Warhol, Chris Sauter, and Yayoi Kusama.

The first piece we saw was the piece by Chris Sauter. Walking in to the enclosed space, circle cutouts allow some light to pour into a small living room set up. In the chairs are circle cluster figures, entitled “dopamine molecules” by Sauter, which he made from the wood he cut out of the walls.

SHSU, LEAP Center, McNay Art Museum, Chris Sauter


The Shadow Monster by Phillip Worthington was a playful exhibit. Pool noodles, hula hoops and spinning flower props allowed for interesting additions to our figures as a projector casted outlines of the observer on to the wall with fun twists. Our shadows morphed as we moved, forming eyes, tails and ears and transforming us into magical creatures.

One of the interactive pieces in the museum was a light board with different colored pegs. We did our best to spell out SHSU with the letters.

SHSU, LEAP Center, McNay Art Museum

We took a similar marketing strategy to the sequin boards, also at the patrons disposal, making for a truly immersive experience.

My favorite piece was the Yayoi Kusama piece. We were allowed into an enclosed room lighted by hundreds of hanging candle fixtures.  The walls of the room were covered in mirrors, giving the viewer the perception that the space was infinite.

 Exploring the museum’s permanent collection was also an extremely satisfying experience.

Claude Monet’s “Waterlilies” was my favorite painting among the collection. I was struck by the size of it alone. Since this was my first experience at an art museum, it was amazing to see paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso, and Monet, some of the most well-known and talented artists of all time, all in one place. Another favorite sculpture piece was by Alexander Calder, an artist who specializes in Kinetic art sculptures.

SHSU, LEAP Center, McNay Art Museum, Alexander Calder

 Overall, exploring the McNay museum was an enriching experience that helped me gain a little more familiarity with art.

LEAPsters Know Anish Kapoor

Houston recently acquired “Cloud Column,” which is also called “The Upright Bean.”  It’s a work of art by Anish Kapoor, whose most famous work is the “Bean” (formally called “Cloud Gate”) in Chicago.  Houston’s acquisition of this work has spurred a heated exchange between Houston and Chicago.  In this exchange, a Chicago writer called Houston a “cultural abyss” and a  Houston writer referred to Chicago as a “has-bean.”

While we’ll leave it to others to argue about the merits of Kapoor’s various works, we keep visiting them when we get a chance!  Our first chance was at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, where works by Claes Oldeburg, Louise Bourgeois, and Jesus Moroles overshadowed a smaller Kapoor piece.  But that wasn’t the case in Chicago, where the famous bean caught the students’ attention.

And, of course, with the “Cloud Column” in Houston, we have new opportunities to explore Kapoor’s art, such as when Christina Perez visited…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Art, Anish Kapoor, Cloud Column, Houston

…or when Karla Rosales visited a few days later.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Art, Anish Kapoor, Cloud Column, Houston

More or less simultaneously, separate LEAPsters were in Phoenix checking out Kapoor’s “Upside Down, Inside Out.”  Unlike most of his work since 1995, this piece isn’t stainless steel, but it is reflective and curved, distorting space and perception.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Art, Anish Kapoor, Phoenix, Upside Down Inside Out

We’re not sure which of the ones we’ve seen are the best, but we are sure we are pleased to have one close to home!

Image result for Houston Cloud Column

National Book Awards at SHSU: 2018

by Bianca Saldierna

The National Book Awards Festival returned to Sam Houston State University this April as part of an annual tradition. The NBAF–sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing, and spearheaded by Amanda Nowlin-Obanion–brought three recent NBA finalist and winners to our university.

This year, Lisa Ko, Danez Smith, and Jason Reynolds joined us for a reception and a mainstage reading & discussion which was free and open to the public. Jason Reynolds, a New York Times bestselling author, was the 2016 Finalist in Young People’s Literature for his book Ghost and the 2017 Finalist for his book Long Way Down.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, National Book Awards at SHSU, Jason Reynolds

Danez Smith was the 2017 Finalist in poetry for Don’t Call Us Dead. Lisa Ko, was the 2017 Finalist in Fiction for her book The Leavers.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, National Book Awards at SHSU, Lisa Ko

The LEAP Ambassadors are always honored to have the opportunity to meet inspiring and talented people such as these authors.

For the reception, Beatriz and I joined the visiting authors and several important and well-known community and university figures such as President Dana Hoyt, Mayor Andy Brauninger, Provost Dick Eglsaer, Vice Provost Mary Robbins, Dean Phillip Lyons, and LEAP’s life-long friends, the Woodwards! Throughout the evening, we enjoyed the delicious finger food and interesting conversations that echoed through the room. Certainly, attending to the reception served us well, as we are a few weeks away from graduation and we needed people who inspired us to live our lives more fully and creatively!

Thank you to the organizers for all their hard work and for giving us the opportunity to attend share an evening with them.


LEAP and LOVE and Robert Indiana

The LEAP Ambassadors were saddened to hear of Robert Indiana’s passing last week.  Indiana was part of “pop-art” generation of artists that came of age in the 1950s and 1960s, and he is best known for his “LOVE” sculpture.

As far as we can tell, there are 21 such LOVE sculptures in the United States, and the LEAP Ambassadors have visited seven of them.  Our most frequently visited of his sculptures is at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden in New Orleans…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, Besthoff Sculpture Garden

…but we’ve also made multiple visits to the Indiana sculpture at Crystal Bridges, in NW Arkansas…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, Crystal Bridges

Some campuses are fortunate enough to have Indiana’s sculptures, and we’ve visited two of those, one on OU’s campus in Norman…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, OU Norman

…and one in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, University of Pennsylvania

Speaking of Philadelphia, they also have one near City Hall…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, Philadelphia

The first such sculpture was in Indiana, which displays Indiana in front of work by another pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, Indianapolis Art Museum

Indiana’s Capitol Building also showcases “LOVE,” but not in sculpture form…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, Indiana Capitol

The City of Scottsdale showcases a “LOVE” sculpture near their civic plaza…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, Scottsdale

…and we saw a version of LOVE (by another artist) in Odessa, next to versions of Rothko and O’Keeffe…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE,

…our least favorite “LOVE” sculpture was in San Antonio, where the sculpture was wrapped up to protect it while the Museum did construction.  We searched for far too long, wondering why we couldn’t find it, only to realize it was in this ridiculous-looking wrapped box.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, , San Antonio

Interestingly, not all of the “LOVE” sculptures say L-O-V-E.  This one in DC, for example, says A-M-O-R.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, Washington DC

That’s eight versions of LOVE, not counting the one that San Antonio boxed up, and not counting the stamps or the non-sculptural versions of the piece we have seen.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, Indianapolis Art Museum

With trips this summer planned for San Antonio and Kansas, we’ll add at least two more to our list, leaving eleven more before we become Robert Indiana completists.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Robert Indiana, LOVE, Indianapolis Art Museum

For more on Robert Indiana, check out this page.