One of the highlights of the fall season is the Sam Houston Memorial Museum’s Annual Photo Contest. After seeing the quality of last year’s photos, we opted against entering any photos this year… But we were excited to see the photos, be back at our favorite museum, and otherwise appreciate the talent on display.
And so it was we ventured into the Walker Education Center to explore, meet old friends, and see who took away awards!
There were four categories: animals, people, architecture, and floral. Hundreds of photos were submitted by Huntsville’s local citizens, then judged by three photographic experts: Kaylin Booker, Paul Olle, and Derrick Birdsall–the latter is also the Museum’s Director.
The animal category is always popular, perhaps because everyone thinks their pet is photogenic, beautiful, and wonderful. Some, as it turns out, are at the very least, more photogenic than others. The winners were…
Animal Category: 1st Place – C. Buzzini 2nd Place – S. White 3rd Place – D. LeNorman
This year’s floral category also included some animals, in as much as animals–much like humans–are drawn to the beauty of nature’s creations and were included in some of the submitted photos in this section.
Floral Category: 1st Place – V. Lorine 2nd Place – E. Day 3rd Place – D. LeNorman
There was, of course, a people category as well.
People Category: 1st Place – D. Lee 2nd Place – C. Buzzini 3rd Place – E. Day
Finally, the architectural category was, in our opinion, the strongest.
Architecture Category: 1st Place – M. Litzmann 2nd Place Tie – S. White & V. Lorine
The judges also picked a best a “Reserve Champion” (A MacLaughlin) and a “Best in Show” (S. Adams).
There were various honorable mentions and curator’s choices that were also worthy.
In addition to all the photographs, we also enjoyed the chance to see old friends, and we want to congratulate them–and the winners–on another successful community photograph contest!
Once a semester, KSAM’s Larry Crippen hosts the LEAP Center for a discussion that airs on “Around Town.” The program focuses on one person or organization, but since LEAP is an engagement organization, the program inevitably covers many aspects of the University and the community.
This semester, for example, we have worked with the Huntsville Police Department, the Walker County Courthouse, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the Boys and Girls Club, Main Street Huntsville, the World Affairs Council, the Freshman Leadership Program, Texas Tech University, the City of Huntsville and we’ve attended events hosted by Student Activities, the Alumni Association, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, the Art Department, the Texas Tribune Festival, and the Popular Culture Association.
And so it was the LEAP Ambassadors, along with their advisor Mike Yawn, met with Crippen in the Holcombe Room for a short discussion of the fall semester and even looking ahead to the spring.
We were able to discuss our first-ever “Beyond Bars” program, our trip to Austin for the Texas Tribune Festival, our trip to New Orleans for a conference, and our normal volunteer work.
It was one of several collaborations with the media this year–undertaken by us and our advisor. And while we may never get accustomed to speaking into a microphone or camera, it was an enjoyable event, in part because we also work with KSAM every fall on their Make A Smile Happen gift drive.
Although the semester isn’t over–we have finals and papers!!!–it’s nice to look back on a semester where we able to accomplish quite a bit!
Although the semester-end draws near, several inquisitive and energetic students were up for a trip to the George Bush Presidential Library. The trip involved not only a tour through the Museum…
…but also a presentation by Jean Becker (President Bush’s Chief of Staff) and Warren Finch (the Library’s Director). What followed was an educational, informative, and entertaining trip through the past century for Cameron Gill, Ingrid Cuero, Olivia Discon, Kloe Osorio Ortiz, and Chris Fahey, led by Professor Mike Yawn and Stephanie Fors.
With a career as varied as George Bush’s, every student had something to enjoy. He had a large and successful family, including a father who was Senator…
…a son who was President, and another son who was Governor.
Ingrid seemed to like this aspect of the Museum the most, paying extensive attention to the family portraits, letters, and descriptions.
For Chris, a veteran, Bush’s military service was a highlight. Bush signed up for the military at 18, becoming the youngest fighter pilot in the service. His plane, The Avenger, hangs from the ceiling of the Bush School, while below,
…the Museum has artfully arranged artifacts from his time in the military.
One of these artifacts is video footage taken after Bush was shot down over Chichi Jima, and it shows him being rescued at sea by the USS Finback.
Cameron Gill and Olivia Discon seemed to most enjoy the gifts given to President Bush from heads of state across the globe.
Kloe and the group–perhaps Ingrid most of all–enjoyed playing roles in the Oval Office, staging a scene that might been from a national crisis.
Moreover, all of the students seemed to enjoy the learning that takes place when you find out things you didn’t know: Bush played baseball in college; Bush was Director of the CIA; Bush served in Congress; and just visiting, for the first time, a Presidential Library and Museum.
No matter their preferences inside the Museum, all enjoyed the presentation by Warren Finch and Jean Becker, who, after introductions by Max Angerholzer…
…reflected on 25 years of the Bush Presidential Library.
With a personal interplay worthy of a road show, Finch and Becker told stories about opening the Library, special events at the Library, managing content of the Library, and, ultimately, Bush’s passing and his burial on the Library grounds.
Following the event, the students had a chance to get their books signed and to meet with Ms. Becker, who was gracious as always. Indeed, she promised a return trip to SHSU, a prospect that was especially pleasing to Professor Yawn.
With a full day behind them, the students had a busy semester to return to at SHSU. Their trip home reflected some of their plans for finishing out the semester, for Thanksgiving break, and also, perhaps, for future visits to Presidential Libraries.
For the LEAP Ambassadors, there is no better mid-week venture than to the Glades Art Foundation in the Woodlands for an always amazing World Affairs Council event. This time around, we were fortunate enough to be accompanied by two guests: Hongjin Jeon, (aka. Andrew) a student in Professor Yawn’s Texas Government class and Dr. Lei Duan, the professor for my Modern Asian History course.
We enjoyed pursuing the current exhibits on display, one of which we have seen before: a collection of drinks!
The Glade Gallery hosts an array of exhibits as well as acts as a meeting location for many local groups. The Woodlands Photography Club was also hosting a meeting and they were surrounded by many dynamic photographs.
The event began with an introduction from Ray Cunningham, the North Houston Coordinator, who thanked the Glade Gallery, and the guests for their continued interest in the Council.
Mr. Cunningham then introduced Professor Yawn…
…who proceeded to introduce General In-Bum Chun.
Professor Yawn highlighted General Chun’s career in both the military and governmental sectors…
…and a few of his acts of service, which later General Chun elaborated on.
General Chun began by recognizing and expressing his gratitude for one of the audience members, Charles, A Korean War Veteran! It was wonderful to see this man, who must have been nearing 90, hear about an expert on Korea, seven decades after he fought for South Korea’s right to remain independent and free.
General Chun then spoke on the importance of the United States involvement in the Korean War, (1950-1953) more specifically, American troops on the ground in Korea. Chun stated, that without help from America Korea would not be where they are economically, politically, and socially today.
He then gave 5 key features about Korea that have been made possible by the U.S.
Reforestation: after the war, the whole peninsula was a barren war zone. Now, Korea has some of the lushest forests in the world.
International travel: Korea has one of the most accepted passports in the world.
Healthcare: General Chun highlighted the benefits of universal health care, including regular preventive health checks.
Public Transportation: The public transportation system is almost on par with the one in Japan.
Public Restrooms: General Chun noted, slightly jokingly, that when you must go, you don’t have to look far! Everywhere in Korea there are accessible, clean restrooms.
Ronan O’Malley then stepped as the world-class moderator that he is, and he asked a series of questions of his own and from the audience. In response, General Chun described Korea’s relationship with its surrounding neighbors.
Most of the country’s trade is done with China, although it is extremely difficult to navigate. With their neighbor to the east, there is deeply rooted emotional history. Japan and Korea have made great strides to reconcile, but politicians from both countries capitalize on the bad blood for political gain.
For the other country that shares the peninsula, General Chun Described North Korea as “a perfect dictatorship based on a cult.” The whole country is run by one family and, socially, still operates based on a hierarchal system.
Often tying historical aspects of the country to modern topics, General Chun concluded the night with one piece of advice: communication. General Chun pointed out that historically there is a lack of communication coming from America. Often we do what is in our interests, without asking the opinions of our allies. General Chun’s advice to keep communication in mind applies to much more than international relations and is sound advice for everyone.
I strongly admire the way General Chun was able to identify an area that has potential for growth in the U.S, but also express his gratitude for what is arguably one of the best alliances in history.
As the event drew to a close, we were able to meet with General Chun in groups. The Lonestar Honors Organization was on hand, and we had a chance to talk with them, and also photograph them with the General.
We also had a chance to meet high-school students from Caney Creek, with their advisor Eric Tanner, and they, of course, had a chance to meet with the General.
And, of course, we had a chance to meet with the General as well…
…and this was probably the biggest treat for Andrew.
On behalf of the LEAP center, thank you to the World Affairs Council for always hosting informative and enjoyable events, and to General Chun for taking the time to share your expertise about your country.
Dinner at Saigon USA Pho Grill
Our goal is always to reinforce the formal knowledge we receive from the presentation with some cultural learning in the form of food. While we couldn’t find Korean food in The Woodlands, we were able to stay close to Korea in a geographical sense, and we had an amazing dinner at Saigon USA pho & grill!
We started with an assortment of appetizers: Cheese puffs, steamed dumplings, and fried wontons. My favorite was the steamed dumplings, but all of the appetizers where amazing.
For entrées, some half of us chose Pho, and the other half chose meat and rice dishes.
Everyone loved their meals, and we left almost no room for dessert! Because Tuesday was Yvette’s birthday, Professor Yawn, let Yvette pick the dessert, and she chose Strawberry and Mango mochi. The mochi was plated beautifully, and everyone enjoyed the sweet treat!
Our early rise in Wichita, KS was accompanied by a nice and cool breeze! This morning we had a hankering for a more local taste for breakfast, and we were excited to try the homemade pop tarts from the local restaurant, HomeGrown. Sure enough, upon arrival, we had three of their brown sugar pop tarts, which were very tasty!
This time around, Morgan and Yvette ordered zesty yet sweet lemon dishes, Limoncello French Toast and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes.
Ashlyn ordered one of their specialties, the Croissant French Toast.
The seasonal flavors were a nice contrast to my savory Chilaquiles Verde Bowl, which was delicious. It was a great breakfast filled with an assortment of flavors!
If you are ever in Wichita, HomeGrown is a must-try especially if you want a taste of something local!
Frank Lloyd Wright’s: Allen House
Our next stop was also a local gem, one specifically designed for the prairies of the interior plains of Kansas: the Allen House. Completed in 1918 by Frank Lloyd Wright, the home was stunning! Not only does the home provide a glance back to an earlier time, but the intricate detail and expert craftsmanship are excellent examples of Wright’s works.
While we could listen to facts and history about the house itself for hours on end, it is important to know about the family who commissioned it. Our tour guide, Mary, wove the history of the Allens with facts about the home during our tour. Henry J. Allen was a Wichita native, newspaper editor and publisher, U.S. Senator, and two-term governor of Kansas. When the Allens decided to build a new home, they remembered hearing about a certain architect with quite the reputation. By word of mouth, he and his wife Elise, knew that they must have a Wright home of their own in the city of Wichita!
Since Wright took on designing the Allen’s dream home soon after working on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, there is a beautiful incorporation of Japanese techniques within the home.
Wright is known for bringing the exterior and the interior together; the effect of the outside meeting the inside is truly captivating.
The Allen House employs the use of horizontal lines, examples of this can be found in the cantilevers, etched designs, light fixtures, and even the grout between the bricks!
Instead of aligning the bricks with the grout, Wright deeply ranked the grout in and created more horizontal lines in and out of the house. With each home we have seen, it is easy to fall in love with the personality Wright gives the home.
Wright loved to add a poetic nature to everyday items, and with crystalized frozen air (windows) lining the home, it truly does make the home a work of art.
The home is filled with Wrights’ iconic built-in bookshelves, five fireplaces, and a Japanese-style pond, making for quite the property. The living room and dining room are adorned with crystalized frozen air (windows) that contain colors found in nature. The lamps around the home show the Japanese influence and are crafted with mulberry paper to create a softer light (photos were not allowed inside).
Wright implements a technique called compression and release in the living room in which you transition through a small door and low ceiling to a grand living room.
Elise Allen was an art collector herself and had several pieces around the home. Some reflected religious motifs, while others were done in a Japanese fashion; but most interesting to us was the Birger Sandzén lithograph!
We were in awe of the beautiful home and were not ready to leave, but we didn’t leave without snapping a picture in the beautiful garden maintained by seven master gardeners who donate their time to maintain the home’s landscape.
This tour couldn’t have been possible without the excellent staff and our tour guide, Mary, at the Allen West Home.
As a result, we learned more about Frank Lloyd Wright and the Kansans who cared about educating others regarding the legend and art of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Larkspur Bistro & Bar
Not only was the Frank Lloyd Wright Allen Home an amazing tour but it also helped us pick our lunch destination! Before touring this beautiful home, we had two options in mind that we were struggling to choose between. However, after we saw a Larkspur flower in the garden, we took it as a sign to eat at the local Larkspur Bistro & Bar! How could we not?
Mary, our guide for the Allen Home tour, recommended that we try their Kansas Wedge Salad and, sure enough, that is what Ashlyn and I ordered.
For our appetizers, we had delicious, crafted bread with oil, hummus, and crab cakes. Yvette ordered the Salmon Fettuccini and Morgan the Air Capitol Burger.
Larkspur Bistro & Bar was yet another great local stop on our trip and we love getting the recommendations from locals!
Wichita Art Museum Ashlyn Parker
After lunch, we headed to the Wichita Art Museum. To our surprise, upon entering the museum, we were met by a Dale Chihuly Persian Ceiling!
We thought that we would experience the Persian Ceiling, also known as the Chihuly Bridge, from one viewpoint, but the surprise continued as we made our way to the second floor and were able to walk across the glass work! In the atrium of the museum, another Chihuly piece, titled Confetti Chandelier, is featured with the typical swirls and orbs illuminating the space.
This museum offered many different styles of art including one exhibit that was strategically lit to display the pieces of contemporary artist, Beth Lipman. Her work is most famous for her use of glass still-life compositions. One piece, in particular the Laid Table, uses common pieces of glass such as a bowls, vases, or plates in a unique way beautifully placed around a tabletop. This piece used about 500 separate pieces of glass to create and lots of glue. The glass in her work represents the fragility of human lives and how delicate they really are.
We came across works by artists we have seen in other museums on our trip. There was an Andy Warhol lithograph depicting scenes of Jackie Kennedy as a remembrance of her husband John F. Kennedy after he was shot. The painting is in typical Warhol fashion as it is divided into four squares, with the image in each square exemplifying a different emotion.
The Carlene and Lee Banks Rotunda Gallery contained 19th-century oil paintings, and everyone tried their hand at guessing the artists. Morgan probably did the best of all of us, an outcome that might have been helped by the fact that Thomas Moran was among the artists in the mix.
But we all saw works by familiar names: Frederic Remington, Roy Lichtenstein, and Louise Nevelson, for examples.
We also saw two artists we weren’t fully familiar with, but which we would become familiar with over the course of the trip: John Steuart Currey…
…and Birger Sandzen.
We enjoyed getting to see a variety of different themes, styles of paintings, and sculptures throughout this museum.
It never ceases to amaze me what these talented people can do with a paintbrush or glass.
Mental Health Courts
Across the nation, new and more specialized methods of trying cases are arising. Today, there are 150 mental health courts in the United States that are completely independent of drug courts, municipal courts, and other courts to which nonviolent offenders with mental health illnesses are assigned.
Leading this cause in her home state of Ohio is former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton.
Sworn into the Ohio Supreme Court in 1996, Justice Stratton made great strides advocating for mental illness. Justice Stratton helped form the Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Mental Illness and the Courts, and is a co-founder of the Judges’ Leadership Initiative.
Joining Justice Stratton on the panel were mental health professionals: Kimberly Nelson, the Regional Administrator for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration serving Region 7, which includes Kansas, Megan Quattlebaum, Director for the CSG Justice Center, Wenhan “Chris” Cheok, the Mental Health Program Manager for Sedgwick County COMCARE, and Flor Alvarado, a Mental Health Court Clinician/ Sedgwick County Offender Assessment Program (SCOAP) & TT Team lead for Sedgwick County COMCARE. Kansan State Senator Pat Pettey led the discussion and prompted some interesting questions.
The Stepping Up Initiative, which we had previously heard about in an earlier sessions, is one of the leading efforts addressing the public health crisis in county jails across Ohio. “Stepping Up is a national effort to break the cycle of jail being the de facto mental health hospital,” are the words of the Ohioans who are working on the Ohio Project.
Ms. Quattlebaum explained how offenders with mental health illnesses are currently prosecuted and processed through the system. Offenders are either tried like any other case in the court that follows the offense, or they are placed in a hospital for forensic treatments. Conversely, mental health courts will use competency restoration for offenders who are not fit for court after three, six, or twelve months of restoration. Depending on the individual, they will either be released or processed through the system and tried at the Mental Health Court.
The need for mental health courts is more prevalent than ever. These courts with their justices and treatment facilities will further help everyone involved, providing the defendants/accused with the help and resources they require.
After the panel discussion was over, Jessica spoke with Justice Stratton about her work and her career, and we were all fortunate to snap a quick selfie with her!
State Dinner at the Midwest Council of State Governments Annual Conference
At many of the Council of State Government regional conferences, the organizations host a “State Dinner” on the final evening, and this was true for the Midwest. This is a big event for LEAP Ambassadors–often their first such experience–and it was made even more fortunate by the presence of two CSG staff members at our table and some entertaining musical performers with the Aerotones Big Band, featuring Jaslyn Alexander on lead vocals.
Throughout the evening, Aerotunes played songs through the decades, often jumping 50+ years in the process. We soon grew to love the range of the music styles and genres and despite the variety in sounds, dancers kept on dancing!
We were first greeted by Senator McGinn, who not only introduced the posting of the color guard…
…and the invocation…
…but also introduced some humor into the proceedings, setting a light tone to a lively evening!
At first, there weren’t a lot of takers on the dance scene.
But when the Ambassadors got on the floor, they soon had the opportunity to learn new dances (or just be led through the dances in some cases). Kansas Representative Mark Schreiber was a particularly generous dance instructor…
…and with some real dancing going on, the dance floor soon came alive!
We hate to say who is the best dancer in the group, but we are really glad we brought Ashlyn.
We were pleased with how nice everyone was, and we were grateful for the new friends we made.
If it’s summer, the Alley Theatre is offering one of their “Summer Chills” programs, and this year’s production was “Clue,” a play that is based on both the 1985 film and the board game. The result was a madcap hour and a half of hilarity, made even more enjoyable by the fact that many LEAP Ambassador alumni joined us for the festivities.
At least two of the students had never seen a live play, so this was new for them. But even those who had seen live theatre were unlikely to have seen a play of this sort: it was frenetic, screwball, a surreal in equal measure–think the Marx Brothers starring in an Agatha Christie play.
The play began with a minimal set, but the spareness of the set permitted quick transformations, allowing the audience to experience a library, a billiard room, a lounge, and a study.
Of course, the sets contained secret doors, a dangerous chandelier, and lights that flickered in a storm. It was, after all, a dark and stormy night…
And, of course, there was the well-known characters: Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, and Mrs. White–each with a mysterious past. Ms. White, for example, seem to marry men who wound up dead. When asked how many husbands she had, she responded, “My own? Or other women’s husbands?”
Along with these typical characters, there was Wadsworth (the butler), Yvette (the maid), and an equally hapless cook and singing telegram singer. And, of course, Mr. Body, who died not once, but twice. There was also a police officer, an “unexpected police officer,” a “backup police officer,” and a driver of a broken-down car. Put these together, along with numerous corpses, and you have quite enough of a murder mystery.
But the mystery was secondary: the primary action was the comedy. Yvette was a prancing, jiggling exhibitionist; Colonel Mustard was painfully, comically slow; Mrs. Peacock was an elderly tippler; Mr. Green was delightfully clumsy; and yet it was Wadsworth that was the star of the show.
Collectively, they went through slow motion reenactments of deaths; performed live-action imaginings of alternative universes; and Wadsworth completed a one-man reenactment of the entire play in about four minutes.. And all of this happened while the cast drew upon “And Then There Were None,” the “Clue” Board Game (at one point, using the board as a map to the “house”), borrowed Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” from “Modern Times,” while also parodying “Gone with the Wind” and “Casablanca”–as in, “Of all the board games, in all the world, he has to walk in to mine.”
To extend the Casablanca theme, it was an afternoon that continued beautiful friendships. Bianca Saldierna (SHSU 18), Will Phillips (SHSU 13), Deanna Youngblood (SHSU 13), and Brian Aldaco (SHSU 18)–along with some significant others–joined us for the fun and caught up on old times.
The LEAP Ambassadors would like to thank all the LEAP and Junior Fellows alumni who helped develop a wonderful program and continue to support SHSU and LEAP! Additional notes: Dr. Robert Donahoo, Professor of English and Drama at SHSU, wrote a wonderful review of the play here, and Melissa Pritchett, who played “Yvette,” is an SHSU alum!
With the start of the semester around the corner, the LEAP Ambassadors celebrated their favorite professor’s birthday by viewing the SHSU Art Department’s new exhibit, “The Light from a Star” and by enjoying cupcakes from the local bakery, Two Blondes and A Bakery. The exhibit included works from Charles Pebworth, Jimmy H. Barker, Harry Ahysen, Stanley E. Lea, May Schow, and Kenneth Zonker, all of whom taught at SHSU–and, of course, produced some wonderful art.
We were welcomed into the room by a large Stanley E. Lea collage but not nearly as big as the one featured on the north wall of the first floor.
Both of these collages featured orange prominently, perhaps as a nod to Lea’s almost three decades of teaching at SHSU. His work can also be found locally in the GPAC as well as the Wynne Home Arts Center.
The exhibit was a collection of artwork created with different media, but I loved the vibrant watercolors utilized in the 1989 untitled painting of trees by Harry Ahysen, which we had trouble photographing.
This painting was unique since both Professor Yawn and Ms. Stephanie mentioned that it was quite different than anything they had previously seen by Ahysen. Yvette’s favorite was number seven in the exhibit, Lake Travis, by Harry Ahysen in 1984. It was a beautiful painting with a lot of blues and greens to capture the beauty of the lake, sky, the surrounding city, and landscape.
Although it had a darker theme than the prior watercolor painting and the Lake Travis painting, all of the ambassadors found another Ahysen nature art piece interesting.
Ahysen was a quick worker, and his work sold well throughout his lifetime. In 1980, he was designated by the Texas Legislature as the State Artist of Texas, and his work can be found in various campus locations and at City Hall in Huntsville.
Morgan’s attention was drawn to an art piece done by May Schow that resembled colors and techniques used by French symbolist painter Paul Gauguin, albeit with some American Regionalist overtones.
Schow was a real find for us, because even Professor Yawn and Ms. Stephanie were not familiar with her work, but we were all intrigued and wanted to see more.
In the adjacent room, the exhibit continued, and upon entering there were paintings by Jimmy H. Barker. These were done with pencil and or charcoal on paper and therefore had a much darker theme which the ravens within added to. As well as the weather outside since it was cloudy and raining, I did like untitled number 18 in the exhibit by Barker that had not only the birds but also trees around them.
Barker passed away six years ago, after a long career at SHSU and of community involvement.
Outside the exhibit, there was a small lounge area that featured the James Surls Through It All, which is a woodcut print on paper.
It was very different yet like his sculptures since it repeated his motif of blades throughout the print. Surls is one of our favorites, and we were fortunate to meet him at least year’s distinguished alumni gala…
…and to have seen his work across the country…
There was also a Charles Pebworth, like the ones we have seen before, with what appeared to be bronze and copper–or, perhaps, a stainless steel with a bronzish patina. It was not in the exhibit proper, but is on, we presume, permanent display on the first floor.
Pebworth’s work can be found around the country and, locally, it can be found in the First National Bank, the Wynne Home, the Gaertner Performing Arts Center, and the Newton Gresham Library. We also visited this piece in the Hyatt in downtown Houston.
We also enjoyed seeing some of Charles Jones’s works around the first floor, woodcuts done in his usual style of famous individuals from the art and literary worlds.
We visited the gallery the Friday before school begins–move-in day–but the exhibit is up until August 27, so we encourage everyone to stop by next week, enjoy the beautiful art work, and experience part of SHSU’s artistic legacy.
On behalf of the LEAP Ambassadors, we would like to thank the Art Department for letting us view this exhibit today and to wish Professor Yawn a “Happy Birthday!”
This past spring, I was nominated as an Alternate Delegate to the Republican Party State GOP Convention hosted in Houston this year. The convention was held June 16-18, and I was fortunate enough to attend on Saturday, June 18. Due to an opening in my Dad’s schedule, he was able to accompany me to the convention!
We left from Huntsville bright and early in the morning and headed south to the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. The convention hall was filled with patriotic booths advertising for campaigns, merchandise, and there was even one with antique maps and flags! The first session began with the National Anthem and speeches from several different leaders in the party.
While the Chairman of the Party, Matt Rinaldi, was leading the GOP in the 15 priorities, I was asked by Walker County’s Republican Chair, Linda McKenzie to move forward to a voting position . Seated next to others from my county, I cast my first vote at the convention by selecting my top priorities.
The GOP reconvened after a quick break, and we were back to work! This time, we had until 5 p.m. to get through the proposed platform, which had almost 300 items listed. Thankfully, before we got too far into the platform, a convention-goer made a motion to reduce the time per section from 25 minutes to 2 minutes, making it possible to get through the entire platform. This motion was met with some disdain, but ultimately did pass among the GOP.
I cast my vote on each item during the discussion, and my dad even snuck up to our section to snap a photo!
Even though it was the last day, the convention was buzzing with energy and excitement for the weeks hard work. I’d like to thank Republican Chair, Linda McKenzie for her hard work and for mentoring me through my first convention!
Dinner at the Grove
One thing is for sure after a political convention, you’ll be hungry! Because we were in Downtown Houston, my dad and I knew that the options were limitless. After a brief online search, we set off on foot towards The Grove. The restaurant was surrounded by (what we thought were ancient) beautiful trees with bending limbs that matched the surrounding park, Discovery Green.
My Dad chose the red snapper, which was highly recommended by our waitress, and I had the filet mignon. It was so big that I needed help finishing it! We thought we had no more room for anything else… but we decided we couldn’t leave without trying the cookie butter gelato. It was the perfect dessert to conclude our meal!
After dinner, we meandered through the park while we waited for the sun to set (a necessity for our next stop) and came across a pop-up flea market! Vendors lined the road selling everything. Leather goods, handmade razors, apparel, and baked goods. My dad and I window-shopped for a little while and enjoyed the summer evening weather before heading to our next site.
Although my dad was a bit skeptical about public art when we first arrived, he slowly began to enjoy himself as the sun set. Turrell’s Skyspace is best viewed at dusk, and the unique design of the space is an excellent display of colors. We wandered in and around the space but enjoyed sitting inside the most.
While the lights are changing color around you, the interior square appears to change as well. However, it is actually just the night sky viewed in comparison to the colors in the space.
The second day of our trip was dedicated to art! Our first stop was to the Rothko Chapel. Rothko is best known for his abstract expressionism and muted colors. The chapel was commissioned in 1964 by the Menils and was intended to be a place of reflection for followers of all religions. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside, but the experience was not lessened. The interior chamber of the chapel is in the shape of an octagon and adorning each wall are massive paintings. At first glance, it is simply a white room with black paintings, but upon a closer look, each painting is distinct. The muted canvases each have a different draw to them, as if they have their own story or personality. There are diptychs, and triptychs each with slight hues of maroons, greys, greens.
The exterior, which was designed by Philip Johnson, Howard Barnstone, and Eugene Aubry (separately), and features Broken Obelisk, by Barnett Newman in a reflecting pool designed by Johnson.
Overall, we enjoyed the new and different experience, and, upon reflection, stands out as one of many highlights over the summer.