Mountains and Monuments: Another Day in Santa Fe

Bandelier National Monument by Bianca Saldierna

On our last day in the rugged west, we went for an early morning hike at the Bandelier National Monument, where the Ancestral Pueblo people lived starting approximately 11,000 years ago.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

The Bandelier National Monument encompasses over 33,000 acres of protected land and over 70 miles of trail. We adventured on the most popular trail at the national monument, the Main Loop Trail, also known as the Frijoles Canyon Trail. As we wandered on the 1.2-mile trail, we had the opportunity to see archeological sites such as Big Kiva…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

…Tyuonyi, Talus House and the Alcove House. As we learned about Big Kiva, a communal meeting place used for religious, educational and decision-making purposes, we spotted three mule deer around the Tyuonyi ruins. To our surprise, one by one, the deer calmly approached the site, stopping a couple feet away from us to snack on some of the grass (although we want to believe that it was because we are some kind of wildlife whisperers).

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandolier Monument

As we continued with our tour, we learned that the Tyuonyi pueblo was one of the several large pueblos located within the Bandelier National Monument. The Tyuonyi once had over 400 rooms and it was home to approximately 100 people.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

We were able to better appreciate the scale of the remainings of the Tyuonyi structure after climbing a volcanic tuff cliff situated in front of it. Resting on the cliff were the Talus Houses which were reconstructed in 1920.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

We had the opportunity to enter the small cave dwellings called cavates via ladder.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

We learned that because the clay rock was crumbly, the people would burn the clay constantly to make it sturdier.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

Midway through our trail…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

…we adventured on the Alcove House which rests in the upper part of some large volcanic tuff cliffs.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument, Alcove House

To reach the former ceremonial cave, we climbed 140 feet up via four steep wooden ladders…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

…all despite Karla’s fear of heights.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

Luckily…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

…the narrow and partly paved paths were not crowded by visitors, which gave us some extra time to carefully explore…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

…and enjoy the views…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

of such a scenic and photogenic place.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Bandelier Monument

Shopping Downtown by Karla Rosales

After our hour-long hike at the Bandelier National Monument, we headed back to the hotel to pack up and enjoy our last few hours in Santa Fe. We spent part of our afternoon at the heart of downtown Santa Fe around the plaza market which was filled with various shops and art galleries.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Santa Fe Plaza

We began our walk through the portal at the Palace of the Governors which was filled with Native American Vendors. The Native American artists, from approximately 41 pueblos and tribes, make and exhibit jewelry, pottery and other works of art.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Santa Fe Plaza

The program that allows Native artists to showcase their art is called Portal Native American Artisans Program and it requires for the vendors to be members of New Mexico tribes and Pueblos and for all of their pieces sold to be genuine pieces. Some of us bought copper bracelets and even a copper guitar pick which were handmade and had unique cultural symbols and designs. Other ambassadors decided to walk around the plaza and enjoy a hot cup of coffee from a local shop.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Santa Fe Plaza

We wrapped up our quick shopping trip and hurried to meet with Mark Burns for lunch.

Lunch with Mark Burns by Christina Perez

Make Burns is a well-known photographer who grew up in Houston and who is known for the National Parks project that featured his photographs of all 59 National Parks. Currently, The LEAP Center and Mark Burns are collaborating to create a documentary on his profession and his successful career as a photographer. Interestingly, as he was working on the National Parks Project he spent some time in Santa Fe. Besides joining us for lunch, he also met us to work on the documentary and allow us to take a few photos of him. Because of being so familiar with the city, he recommended that we visit Tomasita’s Restaurant which serves Northern New Mexican cuisine.  Tomasita’s was first opened in 1974 and has been a local favorite since then. During lunch we enjoyed listening to experiences Mark Burn’s had during the last few months. He shared news about his project of the 100th-year anniversary of the Grand Canyon and his new website design.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Trains

Canyon Road Walk and Film with Mark Burns by Bianca Saldierna

Our conversations were carried on through our walk with Mark Burns around Canyon Road.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road

The half-mile long road located in Santa Fe’s Historical District houses more than one hundred galleries, boutiques and restaurants.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road

As previously mentioned, Mark Burns sporadically lived in Santa Fe while he completed his National Parks Project. He took us to his short-term house located in this picturesque road. We were able to briefly film and photograph Mark Burns in this location to include the material as part of our documentary.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road

To our surprise, the neighboring gallery displayed several pieces of one of the ambassadors’ favorite sculptor, Allan Houser Haouzous.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road, Allan Houser

We also had a chance to photograph Burns at the front of the home in which he stayed during his various trips to Santa Fe.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road, Mark Burns

After concluding our work with Mark Burns, we strode through the charming road…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

…peeked into a couple of galleries, took some photos, and visited a restaurant with a noteworthy side story.  The walls of El Farol’s (The Lighthouse) restaurant display five small murals brushed by Alfred Morang, an artist who made Santa Fe his home and whose house and former studio sit just off of Canyon Road.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road, Alfred Morang, El Farol

We had previously admired Morang’s artwork at the New Mexico Museum of Art…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe NM, New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts, Alfred Morang

…in fact, our knowledgeable museum tour guide directed us to his artwork at this unique restaurant. Our New Mexico visit ended in this historic and popular part of Santa Fe. Although we were nostalgic to leave such beautiful city, we headed back to our home state delighted to have learned about the city’s culture, people, art and history.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Santa Fe, Canyon Road

Are You Art Majors?

It was the last day that we would spend in Denver, Colorado. After four days attending the American Society of Public Administration, exciting hikes, and various art museums, today, would be our last opportunity to fit in as many activities as possible and we definitely took the opportunity!

In preparation for the day, we wore our trip shirts, making us identifiable as SHSU students.  Almost every day we do this on a trip, we are asked, “Are you art majors?”  Our answer is no, but based on our activities, it is a reasonable question.

The American Museum of Western Art by Christina Perez (11)

As many of you know, LEAP began to expand their adventures to the wild west for the first time in January of this year, and with travel come new cultures, foods, and sometimes art. We arrived at our first destination for the day, the American Museum of Western Art. The AMWA officially became a nonprofit art museum in 2010 but the collection had been moved into the Navarre building in the 1990’s.

Earlier on out trip we have had the opportunity to learn about some of the most famous western artist, such as Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Birger Sandzen, and Otis Dozier.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, American Museum of Western Art, Birger Sandzen

Each time we visit a new museum, our goal is to learn three new artists and their style of art, so we were looking forward to seeing our favorites as well as expanding our knowledge of names.  As we walked in the art museum, the greeter explained that the AMWA is made up of more than 600 pieces of art from about 180 artists. She added that the museum was salon style, so the art was not in complete chronological order.

The artwork in the first floor was the beginning of western art which started in the early 19th century with artists like George Catlin, Alfred Jacob Miller, and John Mix Stanley. The most well-known landscape artists were also on this floor. We were particularly excited when we saw paintings by Thomas Moran, and Albert Bierstadt.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, American Museum of Western Art, Albert Bierstadt

Some of the Leapsters had not been exposed to the Hudson River School artist, Alfred Bierstadt, before. One of our favorite paintings was a prime example of the many risks he took in creating his remarkable landscape paintings which was the “Wind, River, Wyoming”. Of course, Thomas Moran was also among our favorites. One of the largest paintings was Moran’s called “Children of the Mountains” which appealed to your senses by just looking at it.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, American Museum of Western Art, Thomas Moran

We ventured through the second floor and discovered even more of the next era of western art. The walls were filed with California-inspired art that started in 1948 when the gold rush lured thousands to America. The artists included German immigrant, Christian Nahl, who had little luck with gold but ended up finding his own treasure in art. The third floor also included Thomas Eakins, who is known for his realist paintings and Victoria’s favorite artist: Blumenstein.  The fourth floor was everyone’s favorite since it had many different modern artist, Expressionist, American Regionalism, New Deal Art, Cubism, and Abstract Expressionism. At one point in the gallery, we were happily surprised to find an Edward Hopper painting portraying Moran Mountain. We were used to him creating urban settings. It sure was a treat for the art lovers! As we left the museum, everyone had found a new favorite among the new and old artists. But our learning adventure did not end there!

Lunch- Denver Central Market by Karla Rosales

After a lengthy morning, we were hungry and ready to eat. Beatriz had been charged with finding the right restaurant for our last meal in Denver. She decided it would be fun to try Denver Central Market, a restored old building in the RiNo District. The market offered many different local vendors which gave us a variety of options to choose from such as seafood, Italian, barbeque, and even vegan. I decided to indulge in something different and tried the seafood roll from Tammen’s Fish Market. It was a delicious roll with a combination of lobster, shrimp, and crab.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, Denver Central Market

Bianca went for a pastrami while Beatriz tried the pulled pork sandwich. Overall, it was a great place of us to have lunch with a large variety of options. I personally voted my lunch today among my top 3 while in Denver. Our next art museum would also be among our top favorite art museums. It was the Kirkland Museum!

Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art by Bianca Saldierna

Our last art museum in Denver, Colorado was the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. The museum exhibits more than 30,000 pieces created by more than 1,500 artists and has an extensive collection of Vance Kirkland, Colorado’s distinguished painter and educator of the 20th century. Kirkland’s art gallery was divided into five periods: Designed Realism,  Surrealism, Dard Edge Abstract/Abstraction of Nature, Abstract Expressionism…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, Kirkland Museum of Decorative Arts and Design

…and the Dot Painting period (not to be confused with Pointillism).

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, Kirkland Museum of Decorative Arts and Design

Each period represented a different style of art and the five periods encompassed the evolution of his innovative art through time. Actually, we learned that the first half of his career was marked predominantly by his watercolor art in which he portrayed realistic landscapes of the grand Rocky Mountains.

The museum is also home to an international decorative art collection from different eras including: Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, Art Deco, Modern, and Post Modern.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, Kirkland Museum of Decorative Arts and Design

An interesting point to make is that the museum coordinated the art paintings with the décor of the time period.  One of the artists whose decorative furniture and glassware were present throughout different periods of art was Frank Lloyd Wright. The Ambassadors came to know about Wright’s prolific career through the architectural designs of his iconic houses.

As part of the modern design period were pieces of some of the most legendary artist such as: Dale Chihuly, Isamu Noguchi, Salvador Dalí, Alexander Calder, Roy Lichtenstein…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, Kirkland Museum of Decorative Arts and Design

…and Pablo Picasso, whose lengthy name we learned to be: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso. We certainly prefer to only call him Pablo Picasso! Some of our other favorites is George Ohr’s “burnt babies” and as well Frank Gehry, both of whom we saw during the Southern Legislative Conference in Biloxi, Mississippi.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, Kirkland Museum of Decorative Arts and Design

Our museum tour started and ended with Vance Kirkland. The final exhibit in the museum was his work studio where he created most of his dot abstract art. Interestingly, his artwork was all created in this gallery and in his studio.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, Kirkland Museum of Decorative Arts and Design

Hanging above his worktable were the straps where he spent approximately ten hours a day layering his canvases. We also learned that his extensive art collection has been exhibited in thirteenth countries across the world. Overall, we left satisfied to have admired the art work of numerous well-known artist and to have learned about the work of Vance Kirkland, who we will know remember for having ventured into new styles.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Denver CO, Kirkland Museum of Decorative Arts and Design

It was finally time to leave, so we traveled overnight in order to reach Santa Fe, New Mexico where we would be able to go skiing… and go to art museums… and explore the beautiful adobe architecture!

 

LEAP Ambassadors Explore Art, History, & Literature in Austin

It’s not often students can take off in the middle of a week, keep up with their assignments and, at the same time, learn a whole lot outside of the classroom.  But that’s exactly what happened with six students who took a two-day LEAP Center trip to Austin.

It may only have been two days, but it was jam-packed with learning, including engagement with Mass Communication, Texas History, Literature, Politics, Management, Art, and even architecture!

Bob Bullock by Chase Kenemmer

            The learning began with the Bullock History Museum, which is an extraordinary history exhibit in the state of Texas, dedicated to the history of Texas, and the progression the state has undergone.  When we first entered the museum the sense of awe swept over the group; we could feel the history come to life as we entered through the giant doorways. The museum was packed with children and adults for a special “Home School” day, as we were corralled through the opening to the first floor. We were greeted by the immense remnants of the French naval ship “la Belle” that sunk as French colonists tried to settle in an uncharted region of Texas.

Flash-forward to the next floor, we see the history come to life as actors described the stories of Mexican President, Santa Anna, flooding the State of Texas with his army, the fall of the Alamo, and the victorious battle of San Jacinto led by General Sam Houston.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

As we transition through the rooms, we see the Texas History woven into American History; the Annexation of Texas. There is a brief pause in between the Reconstruction Era and the Modern, we can see the Goddess of Liberty, which sits upon the Texas Capital building to guide her people into the modern era.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

We also had a chance to learn more about Sam Houston…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

…Reconstruction…SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

..and even had a chance to see some cowboy roping take place!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

Interview with Stephen Harrigan by Chase Kenemmer

It’s not every day a Sam Houston student gets to help interview a famous Texan author, but today Beatriz and I both took time out to help Professor Yawn and Michael Foster interview and film author Stephen Harrigan.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

Professor Yawn talked with Mr. Harrigan, while Beatriz and I worked with Mr. Michael Foster, the Sam Houston’s Video Producer, to fix the lighting and block out the green dull light. He showed us that putting a thin blue cover over the light will naturally even the lighting to what we needed. We helped put the mic on Mr. Harrigan, and the interview began.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

The interview lasted about an hour long and we learned interesting things about Mr. Harrigan’s new work, some interesting history facts, and what we can expect at Sam Houston’s Honors College event “Let’s Talk”; where Mr. Harrigan will sit and talk about his work as an author and screenplay writer. Towards the end of the interview, we discussed the exciting process of writing a book, and the skills it takes to become a writer.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

Both Beatriz and I learned that it takes a special skill to record and produce videos, as well as writing and publishing books.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

New World Deli Lunch by Christina Perez

Before heading to the students favorite Austin art gallery, we headed over to grab a quick lunch. They decided to try Stephanie’s suggestion of New World Deli. The deli was in the heart of the city. Open since 1997, the cozy family owned restaurant is known for its excellent soups, sandwiches, and salads.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, New World Deli

They ordered some of the house favorites like their “Award Winning” Reuben and their broccoli cheese and tomato basil soups. The restaurant had a lot of different art on the wall and opened conversation about art appreciation. This made us excited for the next part of our day!

Daniel Arredondo Studio and the Shoal Creek Gallery by Sawyer Massie

After lunch, we all hurried into the front lobby of the Shoals Creek Art Gallery to escape the brisk winter breeze. Immediately, the famous pieces by James Surls gallantly presented themselves on three of the four walls of the room.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, James Surls

While marveling at the beautiful displays of modernist artistry could have taken all of our allotted time, Professor Yawn eagerly escorted us to the studio of Mr. Daniel Arredondo.  We stared in admiration at the entire walls and floors that were lined with painted cigar boxes and impressionist landscapes on canvas. Mr. Arredondo recognized Professor Yawn and his face lit up as he excitedly greeted every newcomer as a friend.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

Most of our time was spent learning about Mr. Arredondo’s latest works and about his previous career as an assembly-line worker for IBM. He explained that many of his works that involved trees with visible roots beneath the horizon represented people and their deepest secrets.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

One thing that remained constant, however, was his enthusiastic and wholesome outlook on life and work. Many of us left his studio with gifts that he painted because, “anyone who comes to my studio and listens to me talk shouldn’t leave empty-handed.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

With smiles on our faces and beautiful works of art in hand, we continued on our tour of the rest of the gallery. This took us to an exhibit on Lorena Morales, a Houston based artist which included the intricate translucent pipe sculptures of varying shapes and colors. Some pieces included a row of piping hung on the wall while others were stood alone and rested on the ground. Most interesting, however, was the message of perspective behind these works and how standing in a certain place could change the entire aesthetic of the piece. In the back of the gallery was a smaller exhibit that included colorful pieces of varying art styles and artists.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors

There, we observed all of the motifs and styles of the different artists and discussed what we enjoyed about each piece. It is safe to say that each of us left with a newer appreciation of art and expression.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

Harry Ransom Center and James Turrell Skyspace by Christina

            We made a quick stop was to see the Gutenberg Bible at the Harry Ransom Center. One of the first printed books, there are only around 40 existing today in the entire United States. It was impressive to learn that we had one in Texas and so close to Huntsville. We accidentally continued the art motif after by getting glitter coffee…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors

…before heading over to the James Turrell Skyspace. The University of Texas at Austin has one the twelve Skyspaces open to visitors in the United States. The LEAP Ambassadors have visited about five Sky Spaces all together, but this time we brought some new friends along. As they walked into the Skyspace we could see the glowing faces of the first timers when they looked up at “The Color Inside.”  Tyara and Ilexus had never been to a Skyspace so this was a sure treat for them! “It was an eye-opening experience,” said Ilexus. The colors shifted from blues to grays and from pinks and purples.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is always very relaxing to sit through the show and wait for the sun to set completely. They were glad that their new friends enjoyed the experience and were happy to learn about a new type of art.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, James Turrell, UT Skyspace

Habesha Ethiopian Dinner by Beatriz

            As our last outing we went to go eat Ethiopian food in a restaurant. It was not a regular meal. Since most of us had not tried Ethiopian food, we ordered the Habesha Special Meat Combination Platter, that came with assorted meats to try.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Habesha, Ethiopian Food

Although different than the regular cheeseburger and the use of injera bread as a utensil instead of a spoon or fork. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially when dessert time came around and “exotic” vanilla ice cream, tiramisu, and baklava. With special end, we headed back to our hotel, looking forward to getting a tour at the Capitol tomorrow.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, James Turrell, Skyspace, UT Austin

 

Westward Ho: Tucson, Arizona

Having left El Paso early in the morning,  we continued our road trip through the southwest.  On the third day of the trip, we were given a flavor of this desert landscape through Saguaro National Park and by tasting its most notorious wildlife later in the same evening.

Saguaro National Park

After spending our morning riding and playing games in the car…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Tucson AZ

…we were full of energy and eager to visit with Mark Burns again to continue working on our documentary!  But, first, owing to the long car ride that completely spanned New Mexico, we stopped for a picnic lunch at one of the coolest rest stops in the country.

SHSU, LEAP Center, AZ

With our bodies replenished , we headed toward Saguaro National Park, just outside of Tucson, where we planned to meet Mark Burns.

Mark is very familiar with the park having photographed it during his National Parks photography project and visited multiple times afterward. He gave us some suggested lookouts to visit and we brainstormed where we could get the best shots. We began our visit with a trip to Valley View Overlook, a short half mile stroll to a scenic lookout over the National Park.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson

Besides, Mark’s expertise, we had our organizational president and the TSUS Student Regent, Kaitlyn Tyra, to look over us.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Kaitlyn Tyra

We read about the native cacti and wild plant life that grew throughout the Saguaro desert before soaking in the views of the overlook.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson

We took a few minutes to take photos…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

…climbed around on rocks…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

…before heading back and onto the next excursion with Burns.

Our second stop with Mr. Burns took us to a cul-de-sac with pueblo style picnic tables and benches (done by the CCC).

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

Mr. Burns decided it would be a good place to shoot a panoramic photograph. He then went to his SUV where he opened a large, rectangular black box.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

Inside was an elongated rectangle with a triangular body whose head had the lens of the camera. This elongated rectangle was the home of 120 film used for the panoramic photo. As Mr. Burns explained, this special camera captured the scene by exposing four frames at the same time in a single shot. This created the long frame necessary to appreciate the entire landscape.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

After he grabbed his camera, we positioned ourselves to start filming and photographing his work. Mr. Burns explained the process of shooting a panoramic photo with a film camera and showed us the filter he often uses on landscape panoramas.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

The filter darkens the sky while brightening the ground to balance out the contrast between the dark ground and bright sky.

This process took a while, but it was a fun learning experience, with all of us involved.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once the photograph was complete, we caravanned to our third and final stop of the day with Mark Burns. The third hike was similar to our first in that it included a half mile trip to see the beautiful, untouched beauty of the park. This particular trail included prehistoric Indian petroglyphs. We hiked up to see the ancient rock drawing and were met with beautiful mountains in every direction.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns, Indian Petroglyphs

This was our first visit to Saguaro National Park and it couldn’t have started off better than it did with sight-seeing suggestions from Mark Burns! While we hiked to visit the petroglyphs, Mark Burns was busy setting up for another panoramic photograph.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

We made it back before he finished and took the opportunity to observe and photograph his work!

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

After we left Mr. Burns, we decided we had enough daylight to hike a 2.5-mile loop named Gould Mine.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Gould Mine Trail

The trail offered many pretty views…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Gould Mine Trail

…and some interesting cacti.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Gould Mine Trail

However, about two-thirds of the way through the trail the sun set.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Gould Mine Trail

Although we were wrong about how much daylight we had left to complete the trail, we still managed to go though it safely and with excitement. Before we lost the sun, we managed to capture some amazing photos of the sky…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Ryan Brim

…and landscape.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Brian Aldaco

We were even able to find the perfectly-shaped cactus before it was too dark.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Gould Mine Trail

Even though the last portion of the trail was traversed without sunlight, visibility was possible through our flashlights that provided safe travels through the trail. We made it back to the car soon enough with a slight detour that shaved time off our trip. After that hike, we were ready for dinner in Phoenix.

Dinner at Rustler’s Rooste

To end the day, we had dinner at Rustler’s Rooste. As we walked up to the restaurant door we noticed that the guests were greeted by a long-horned steer that introduced guests to the western theme of the restaurant. Inside, a country band could be heard paired with thumps of boots on the floor boards at a two-step rhythm. Were there a Texas flag displayed at the center of the dance floor, we would have felt right at home. Rustler’s Rooste did offer its own western feel different from Texas, one that we very much enjoyed.

When we sat down Professor Yawn told us we were free to pick what we wanted but he recommended the “Cowboy Stuff.” This plate included shrimp, barbecue chicken, beans, fries fruit, ribs, and much more food that could feed a whole wild west settlement. The menu had the plate servings marked well as it noted that it could be served for “two or a bunch more.” Accordingly, we ordered for a “bunch more” so that all six of us could eat. Before dinner arrived, the ambassadors went outside to check out the restaurant’s famous view and get their first glimpse of Phoenix!

SHSU, LEAP Center, Phoenix, Arizona, Rustler's Rooste

When we came back to our seats, it was with great surprise that we found rattlesnakes in our tables! They were however served in a plate an fired to an exquisite crisp.  This cooked reptile was also paired with another iconic symbol of the west, cacti fried to the same golden brown as the rattlesnake. Fortunately, the exotically delicious appetizers were not enough to fill us and keep us from enjoying our main course.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Phoenix, Arizona, Rustler's Rooste

Our meal was extremely filling and satisfying after a long day of hiking!

The ambassadors felt accomplished as they returned to their hotel that evening. We had now had a true taste of Arizona after we experienced one of its natural treasures by hiking in Saguaro National Park. Additionally, our adventurous palates led us to try some of the southwest most tasty treats. We are looking forward to the rest of our stay in the Grand Canyon State.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Tucson, Mark Burns

Going West Day 2: Passing Through El Paso

Ever walked through luxurious halls of a mansion and hiked through the desert mountains of the southwest? Such were the experiences of the LEAP Ambassadors, on the second day of their Western US trip.  On this second day, the picturesque paintings from the El Paso International Museum of Art and the El Paso Museum of Art were beautifully paired with the scenic vista from Franklin Mountains State Park.

El Paso International Museum of Art

Our morning began with a visit to the El Paso International Museum of Art, a non-profit dedicated to displaying pieces of art from artists around the world.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso, International Museum of Art

The museum was originally a mansion that was donated to the city by the owner, Iva Turney, after her husband passed away.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso, International Museum of Art

The home was donated under the condition that it be turned into the first museum in El Paso. Now, the museum has several permanent collections. One of our favorites was the American West Gallery which had bronze statuettes of cowboys, conquistadors, and a very peculiar Don Quixote sculpted by SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso, International Museum of Art, Rogelio Madero de la Peña.

Another fun exhibit that we viewed was the Mexican Revolution gallery. This room showcased weapons, letters, pictures, and other artifacts from that time. In this gallery there was also art by Bill Rakocy depicting the era’s infamous Pancho Villa.

Pancho Villa

Apart from the permanent exhibits, there were also temporary ones. One exhibit had statues that were made of wood and bronze. One titled Tree to Tango was the group’s favorite of that collection and reminded us of the art of Huntsville’s Scott McCarley.

We were grateful to have viewed the art of the International Museum of Art and decided it was a good first stop for the art El Paso had to offer.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso, International Museum of Art

El Paso Museum of Art

Our day of exploring El Paso continued with the El Paso Museum of Art. We have been lucky enough to see James Surls in many of our destinations and continue to enjoy seeing this Sam Houston talent around the nation. This museum has one of the biggest Surls we have ever seen. Of course we had to take a picture!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso Museum of Art, James Surls

The museum had other familiar names such as Luis Jimenez…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso Museum of Art, Luis Jimenez

…more Luis Jimenez, which we had previously seen at the Moody Gallery in Houston

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso Museum of Art, Luis Jimenez

…Tom Lea…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso Museum of Art, Tom Lea

…Jim Love, and many others. Among some of the special pieces that we viewed was Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso Museum of Art, Gilbert Stuart

…and a Dale Chihuly vase. As a special treat, the museum also had a temporary exhibit on Frank Lloyd Wright.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso Museum of Art, Frank Lloyd Wright

During this exhibit we got to view the designs for his Taliesin West home, which we are planning to visit on this trip!

But there were new names to learn during this museum visit as well. Brian’s favorite artist, for example, was Harry Geffert who had a sculpture called Mantime. His metal sculpture was shaped into a man on a carriage hauling a ball with trees and people. This piece represented the struggle of man and nature. We also learned about James Drake’s Cinco de Mayo, which was an altered piece of Francisco de Goya’s Third of May, and whose artwork has been featured in Betty Moody’s art gallery.

Our last stop in the museum was the Tom Lea exhibit which highlighted some of his early work and some of his famous post office murals.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso Museum of Art, Tom Lea

A couple of the ambassadors had the privilege of seeing his work at the Smithsonian Art Museum in Washington, DC, and at the Ellen Noel Art Museum in Odessa, Texas. It was a treat to see more of Tom Lea’s works and to view artwork from other artists that we have seen in former trips!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso Museum of Art, Tom Lea

On our departure from the Museum…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, El Paso Museum of Art

…we headed to the downtown square, where we saw an alligator fountain by Luis Jimenez…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Luis Jimenez

…a fountain that is an homage to El Paso’s past, when the City kept live alligators in the middle of the plaza!  That past was as recent as the 1970s, before problems with the alligators’ upkeep prompted a more figurative representation of alligators.

Carnitas Queretaro

After our visit to El Paso’s Art Museum, we were excited to try Brian and Christina’s pick for lunch: Carnitas Queretaro Mexican Restaurant. The restaurant is ranked by Trip Advisor as one of the best spots for Mexican food in El Paso. We started our meal with sopecitos, miniature versions of the traditional sopes. Made from a circle of masa with pinched sides, fried, and covered with beans and cheese, it was a wonderful savory treat! Christina even ordered the regular sized sopes for lunch. Everyone in our group ordered different meals for lunch, ranging from carnitas tacos to adobada. The meals were filling and perfect for our day in El Paso.

Franklin Mountains State Park

Having recharged with our delicious Mexican dinner, we decided to head closer to the border to Franklin Mountains State Park. Although our intention was to hike up the mountain, we were instructed that there was not enough sunlight to make it up the mountain before night time.

However, this setback did not deter us from seeking hilly thrills. Famous to the state park is the Wyler Aerial Tramway.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Franklin Mountain State Park, Aerial Tramway

We hopped, well slowly crept, into the gondola and began the 2,600 feet ascent towards Ranger Peak. As we reached the top, we felt the pressure from the 5,632 feet altitude with our popping ears and trembling limbs. We reached the top and were immediately at awe by the colors, ridges, and dessert beauty of the Franklin Mountains.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Franklin Mountain State Park, Aerial Tramway

This allure prompted us to exploit the dimming sunlight in order to go for a short hike down the mountain.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Franklin Mountain State Park, Aerial Tramway

The trail was narrow and composed of unstable gravel and sharp siltstone.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Franklin Mountain State Park, Aerial Tramway

We made our descent carefully and slowly. On occasion, we would take a few seconds to appreciate the awesome views of El Paso and Juarez from the height of the mountain.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Franklin Mountain State Park, Aerial Tramway

The view was made more stunning once night had fallen.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Franklin Mountain State Park, Aerial Tramway

We finished our hike and reached the gondola. While we went down the slope, it almost felt like we were floating over the twinkling lights of El Paso.

Having completed an amazing day in this exciting border town, we headed to our hotel and prepare for our departure in the morning.