An Evening of Art: The 2016 Art Gala

By Alex Chartier

On an unusually warm night for late October, dressed-up men and women were gathering at the beautiful Gaertner Performing Arts Center.   However, this wasn’t your typical style of late October costumes; instead of Halloween mummies and vampires, patrons arrived in their finest attire, for it was the night of the Art Department’s annual Gala. The building buzzed with the sound of people joyously conversing with old friends and new acquaintances alike. Each passing moment brought more excited people inside as they all prepared for the night’s festivities to begin.

David Adickes, Art Department Annual Gala, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU

After finding their seats, everyone began to chat with those seated around them. The members of the LEAP Center as well as members from the Pre-Law Society found themselves sharing a table with Professor Mike Yawn and Ms. Stephanie Fors, as well as former mayor, Mac Woodward and his wife, Leanne Woodward. Conversations at the table ranged from the upcoming internships at the capital, to the Memorial Museum’s chickens, famous for roaming the grounds of the campus. Dr. Michael Henderson, Chair of the Art Department, acted as the night’s host, thanking people for coming out and officially kicking off the night’s proceedings.

Art Gala 2016, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, David Adickes

Following a wonderful three-course meal, the awards ceremony began. The first to be presented the award for Outstanding Alumna was Ms. Emily Peacock. A 2006 graduate of Sam Houston, she has developed a career around “snap shot aesthetic” photography. Peacock mainly focuses on her own family, and she photographs the private aspects of life one rarely gets a glimpse of. Her works have been featured throughout Texas, New York City, and Europe, as well as being in the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Emily Peacock, Art Department Gala, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors

The next award for Outstanding Alumna was given to Ms. Cynthia Reid. After completing her degree in Art Education at Sam Houston, she taught for Conroe ISD, while also earning two more Masters degrees from Sam. She is well known for her work with water colors as she tries to capture the ever-changing sea into a single scene. She currently teaches at Sam Houston and coordinates the Angel Show Holiday Market in Huntsville.

The recipient for Outstanding Supporter of the Arts award was Mr. David Adickes.

David Adickes, Art Department Annual Gala, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU

Perhaps famous to most in town as the sculptor of the giant Sam Houston statue, he is also famous for his quick-witted humor and as the savior of Huntsville’s old high school (for, as he says, “how can someone tear down the place where you learned to jitterbug”). His works have been featured in solo shows throughout Texas and have received top honors at many competitions. His impact in the field of art, especially in Huntsville, is undeniable. It must be mentioned that regardless of his life-long accomplishments, he has not let the success go to his head as he is still as down-to-earth and fun loving as anyone.  He even took time after the ceremony to pose for a goofy picture with the members of the LEAP Center and Pre-Law Society.

David Adickes, Art Department Annual Gala, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU

After the formal conclusion of the gala, guests once again mingled about, congratulating the recipients of the awards. On the way out the door all guests were presented with their “swag bags” as a last parting gift before stepping out into the night, which had gotten much cooler during the preceding events.

David Adickes, Art Department Annual Gala, SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU


Festivities of the Political Variety

It was exciting for all of the LEAP Ambassadors to be back in Austin again. Even though we were here for the Texas Tribune Festival, we still had so many fond memories of our adventures, friends, and learning opportunities made while working at the Capitol. It was a place that had taught us about politics, the legislative process, and of course the great state of Texas.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Capitol

After a summer away from the capitol, we decided to visit some old friends, co-workers and possibly even future job opportunities. A lot had changed since we had been gone, especially us. As we stepped into rotunda, we were no longer the inexperienced interns, but hardened veterans yearning for more.

And yet some things had stayed the same.  All of our Legislative Session coworkers happily greeted us back into our old offices. There are many of the LEAP Ambassadors who hope to work in the Capitol again, and it was nice to re-acquaint ourselves with friends. This is even more important this year because Professor Yawn will get to watch 7 out of the 9 ambassadors walk the stage (he’s sad to see us go even if he won’t admit it) and LEAP into our futures!

One new thing, though, is that we ran into Karl Rove while in the Capitol!

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Capitol, Karl Rove

For political junkies, it was a real treat, one that would be bookended by seeing Senator Al Franken later in the evening.

Lunch at Leaf

Lunch was in a healthy, green restaurant called Leaf, which specializes in making made-to-order giant bowls of salads. Most of their produce is local and their portion size is huge! We were all happy to be able to go there because we had heard many great reviews of this restaurant and it sure did not disappoint. We left with great big smiles on our faces and recharged to continue with our day.

Time with Art, Part 1

After a quick trip to our hotel rooms to freshen up and change into more comfortable clothes, we headed to see some wonderful art by artist Daniel Arredondo. Mr. Arredondo grew up in East Austin and always knew he wanted to be an artist. Now, he fulfills his dream by telling his interesting, and sometimes personal, stories through his artwork. Many of his paintings show landscapes, but the recurring motif of his pieces is “Beneath the Surface”.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Daniel Arredondo

He explained this with an example of his trees and how the roots of trees represent the places where we come from and how the darker spots beneath the surfaces are our most treasured secrets. Just recently, he began a new project. For many years, he collected cigar boxes until he accumulated over a thousand of them! He decided to repurpose these boxes by painting on the bottom part.

Amazed by all the wonderful and unique art, we appreciated every piece in his studio. Later, he surprised us by asking us to pick our favorite small painting as a small gift to us. It was such a wonderful gesture that we treasured. Some ambassadors purchased additional paintings. Mr. Arredondo was so hospitable and cheerful.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Daniel Arredondo

We certainly enjoyed his studio, his art, and the interesting conversations!

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Daniel Arredondo

Time with Art, Part 2

Mr. Arredondo had previously informed other artists in the building that we would be dropping by, and each artist and art dealer welcomed us.

Some of the most interesting galleries included the Flatbed Press & Gallery, Gallery Shoal Creek, and Austin Books Arts Center.  Artistic highlights included seeing the steps behind the making of Luis Jimenez’s “Self Portrait”.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Luis Jimenez

It was exciting to see the developing stages of a print and to compare each step with the finished product.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Luis Jimenez

Just down the hallway, Gallery Shoal Creek Art Gallery displayed beautiful artwork as well. Ranging from Japanese influenced art to contemporary collages; my favorites were vintage books transformed into art. The artist Karen Hawkins expanded the book’s physical properties by manipulating, folding, cutting, and designing each book into a work of art. Each piece was intricately designed and unique.

In the same building, Austin Books Arts Center was a fun find for the LEAP Ambassadors. We learned how to use a book press, about the classes the books center offers, and the other workshop services the Center offers. We only wish we would have discovered it during our Austin Internships. One of the volunteers was even nice enough to give us a brief tour of the studio before taking a selfie with us.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Austin Book Arts Center

Al Franken

Excited to begin our Tribune Festival adventure, we attended the opening keynote “One on One with Al Franken” that focused on his latest book, “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.” We navigated through the UT Campus to find the Hogg Memorial Auditorium. But as we neared our first event’s location, a chill of fear ran through our skin. Although the line on the entrance was small, festival staff stood at the doorway menacingly assigning numbers to those entering: 12, 13, 14. Professor Yawn enters the door way. 15, 16, 17. Most of the group is in, but not Kaitlyn. 18. She’s in now. 19. 20! That is it! No more admission!

The conversation between the Tribunes’ Evan Smith and Senator Franken was filled with amusing anecdotes and political commentary that made for an interesting session.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Texas Tribune Festival, Al Franken, Evan Smith

As to be expected, the Saturday-Night-Live-writer-turned-senator knew how to captivate his audience’s attention. Going through the comedic highlights of his book, Senator Franken commented on the nation’s political atmosphere.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Texas Tribune Festival, Al Franken, Evan Smith

Knowing his audience well, he knew exactly which political figures to bring into the conversation, and most importantly, which to direct his jokes at.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Texas Tribune Festival, Al Franken, Evan Smith

The session soon ended and we joined the throng of exiting festival guests. After regrouping with the rest of the group who had just arrived from Huntsville (Staci, Victoria, and Chase), we decided to visit some of the Festival’s first day attractions at the Opening Night Party.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Texas Tribune Festival, Evan Smith

Dinner at the Clay Pit

After the Friday group joined us in town we headed to dinner to one of our favorite restaurants, Clay Pit.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Clay Pit

It was not our first time at Clay Pit (except for Chase) and while we waited to be seated, everyone had already picked what they wanted to eat for dinner. The restaurant is known for its delicious traditional Indian food, and for appetizers we ordered variety of Naan with a side of hummus. I had the Goan Yellow Curry, Karla and Chase shared Lamb Rogenjosh, and Beatriz and Christina shared the Mughali Chicken, to name just a few.

LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU, Austin, Clay Pit, Staci Antu

After planning for our second day and a late dinner we headed back to the hotel to get some rest before our second day at the Texas Tribune Festival.

LEAP Hosts Author James Reston, Jr.

The LEAP Ambassadors are hosting journalist James Reston, Jr. this week.  In the spirit of the LEAP’s interdisciplinary mission, Reston will speak to Dr. Melissa Mednicov’s “Modern Art” class, to an audience at Brazos Bookstore (in Houston), to a group of students in a studio production, and at our heART of Huntsville program.

His appearance is timed with the release of his latest book, “A Rift in the Earth,” which the New York Times called “superb” and Ken Burns called “extraordinary.”  The book addresses the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the controversy over Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial Wall.

Prior to his main events on campus, he enjoyed a dinner with the LEAP Ambassadors at 1836…

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, James Reston Jr

…where he discussed his cameo in “Frost/Nixon,” which was based on his book, his work on Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre, and other interesting topics.

LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, James Reston Jr