The LEAP Center opened up the doors to all interested SHSU students in September, inviting them to come in, learn more about LEAP Activities, meet faculty, or to attend upcoming events.
Megan Chapa, Kaitlyn Tyra, and Constance Gabel–LEAP Ambassador Officers–did a great job setting up the Holcombe Room, with decorations
…and ice-cream sundaes…
It didn’t take long for SHSU’s students to dig in.
One of the nicer aspects of the events was the presence of faculty members and staff., including Dr. Ashley Ross, Kristin Trojacek, and Kelly Brown…
…and Dr. John Domino with students Connor Manning and Austin Taylor.
Of course, the event was mostly for the students, and about 100 or so showed up.
Another nice aspect of the event was the presence of all the LEAP Ambassadors at the same time and same place. With only six Ambassadors, we have to split up to have as much coverage in the community as possible, so it was nice to see Karla…
…and Alex and Austin…
…assist Megan, Kaitlyn, and Constance. Interestingly, Constance’s family came up (it was family weekend), and a family pic ensued on the balcony of the Holcombe Room.
Thanks to all the students who came by–especially the freshmen, who are getting an early start on success! And make sure you enjoy our upcoming events:
After a roller-coaster weekend at UNT Law, we had a half of a day left in Dallas before returning to SHSU. We decided to use it by having a little fun and enjoying good food.
We could have had both in Klyde Warren Park, one of Dallas’s newest success stories. Known as the “front lawn of the arts district: for its proximity to the arts district, the park provides an interesting 5-acre public space for families to enjoy a morning or afternoon. It also has a ring of food trucks, offering fare of every kind, making it a great place for a group as diverse as ours to go. But because we like to explore, we had our fun at Klyde Warren Park, before moving elsewhere for lunch.
There are large green spaces at Klyde Warren, with a .45-mile walking trail around it. Along the trail or mini-recreation areas: a kids’ park, a board-game station, a reading library station,
a putting green, a Foosball table, and an amphitheater. The amphitheater can be used for bands and such at night, but is used for yoga at 10am daily. The day we were there, almost 100 people were participating in the yoga relaxation/exercise techniques.
But our primary purpose was to throw the frisbee around, and we soon learned who could catch.
Austin, for example, can catch. In the picture above, notice the Jordanesque-shadow. Of course, he played college football until this year, so we expected him to be athletic.
As it turns out, though, Kaitlyn Tyra can also catch, and she may be a dark-horse for our Spring 2015 Charity Football game.
Professor Yawn is getting up there in age, but we let him play because he grades us.
We think Megan can catch, but we aren’t really sure. She had a strict rule to only move one step in any direction, which earned her the name “One-Step Chapa.” Here she is impersonating a stork.
But the day wasn’t particularly intense for any of us.
Notice the halo over Professor Yawn’s head.
Following some more fun, we had to call it a day at the park…
…and return to the hotel. As we preparing to check out, the hotel went dark. The electricity went out. The LEAP Center Ambassadors pride themselves on adaptability, but this was difficult for Constance Gabel, who was stuck in the hotel elevator. The fire department was called…
…and Constance was extricated from the hotel elevator.
Just in time for us to eat at Twisted Root, a restaurant that specializes in burgers and root beer. Their burgers are wonderful, and their root beer is interesting. The flavor of the day was “Irish Creme Root Beer,” which was better than the root beer from the last time we were there: Grape Root Beer. Of course, that was better than their “Coconut Root Beer.” Their regular root beer is excellent. And their burgers are great.
One of the interesting aspects of their restaurant is that, when you order, they provide you with a name from popular culture as your signal that your burger is ready. In our group, we had Eva Mendes (Kaitlyn), Serena Williams (Beatriz), Apollo Creed (Austin, of course), Matlock (Yawn), Mike Modano (Brian Aldaco), and others. It was interesting to see who knew which references, a process that led Austin to say, “Son, you need to watch more television” to one of the newer members.
With a general consensus that Twisted Root is a good place to lunch, we allowed Constance one more groupie for the weekend…
…and headed home.
But not for rest and relaxation! The week ahead involved our weekly meeting (Monday), a law-school application workshop (Wednesday), a Moot Court Practice (Thursday), a volunteer meeting (Thursday), the showing of Nosferatu (Thursday, whew), a Mock LSAT (Saturday), and a volunteer event (Saturday).
After an intense 24 hour period competing and observing Moot Court proceedings, the LEAP Ambassadors, Moot Court participants, and members of the pre-law cohort decided to relax a bit, explore the history of Dallas on a Segway, and fill their bellies.
The relaxation involved some downtime at the hotel, followed by an ice-cream treat.
Shortly thereafter, another treat was in order. We stopped by Segway Nation for a tour of Dallas on a segway.
It was a beautiful time of day, what movie-makers call “magic hour,” and we made the most of it with pictures.
But, of course, with it turning a bit dark, Austin felt he need to serve as a protector of the group, and adopted a secret-service/tough guy look.
At first, not everyone felt totally relaxed…
…but eventually everyone got the hang of it, and we headed off to see Dallas.
The segway tour took us to Pioneer Plaza, a large outdoor sculpture that consists of 49 bronze steers and 3 riders created by sculptor Robert Sommers. Note that it appears that Alex is saluting when, in fact, that it is a longhorn projecting in front of her face.
The tour, led by excellent guides Doug and Jack, also took us by I. M. Pei’s Dallas City Hall, where we were able to turn and see the beautiful Dallas skyline which, according to our guides, is regularly listed as one of the five most beautiful in the US.
The tour also took us by the Kennedy assassination site on Elm Street. The students had a chance to get off the segways and walk to the “X” spots, which mark where the Oswald’s shots hit Kennedy.
We also entered the Kennedy Memorial, designed by Philip Johnson, one of the great architects of the 20th Century.
Speaking of Johnson, we were also able to go to Thanksgiving Square, a public space he designed in the 1970s as a means of racial and cultural healing. With a replication of Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” painting…
…and the “Ring of Thanks,” where visitors are encouraged to stand and offer thanks. From the center of the ring, the sound reverberates, symbolically echoing the many things for which we are thankful. In our group, thanks went to family, opportunities, school, and even the LEAP Center.
Thanksgiving Square also has a spiral chapel adorned with one of the largest stained glass assemblages in the world. The glass, designed by Gabriel Loire of France, is designed to become brighter as it ascends and moves to the center.
In the midst of such beauty, it was easy to be thankful.
And with that, we returned to the segway base, where we shed our helmets and headed to Hoffbrau Steaks (thanks for the recommendation, Doug!) and enjoyed a robust end-of-the-day dinner.
But before heading out we gave a few more thanks: to our LEAP Ambassadors, who came to Dallas to cheer on their Moot Court friends; to the Pre-Law cohort, who came to check out the action and consider joining the team for next year; for Kristyn, who decided to stick with the “team” rather than go home; and to our coach, Jean Loveall, who spent a lot of time teaching us the finer points of law.
It was a fun second week for participants in the LEAP Center’s heART of Huntsville program. The week involved a behind-the-scenes tour of David Adickes’ “Big Sam” at the Huntsville Visitor Center, a bus tour of the city’s outdoor sculptures, dinner at the new Eclectic Studio, and a wonderful tour of the Adickes’ Foundation.
Jamie Matthews at the Visitor Center offered an informative and welcoming environment for us beginning at 6pm, with snacks and water on hand. We were treated to a viewing of the short animated feature introducing the building of the Sam Houston Statue (and Sam Houston, the man)…
…which was produced by SHSU students in the animation program of the University’s art department. Following the video, we visited the statue, gathered for a group picture….
…and learned cool facts. Did you know, for example, that there is a door to the interior of the statue, allowing people to climb to the top of Big Sam?
We also had an hour-long bus tour of Huntsville’s outdoor sculptures. We would bet that most Huntsville residents don’t know the city has more than 30 such sculptures, including work by world-renowned artists such as Charles Pebworth (“Totem Number One” behind City Hall), Jesus Moroles (two outdoor sculptures on SHSU’s campus and four on the Wynne Home grounds), and Pompeo Coppini (Sam Houston’s grave monument)? While those sculptors may be some of the more famous, there’s also the abstract Christ statue by Brother Melvin Meyer, who completed more than 10,000 sculptures (mostly from recycled materials) before passing away in 2013? Or that one of Stuart Kraft’s two Huntsville sculptures was lost by Huntsville Independent School District? Or that John Stewart’s “Reclining Figure” was inspired by the work of Henry Moore, perhaps the greatest 20th Century sculptor? Or that the seven trees surrounding the “reclining figure” represent the seven astronauts lost in the 1986 Challenger explosion? And how many people know that architect Harry Payne completed more seven or eight structures in Huntsville (e.g., Smither-Martin law firm, Sam Houston Memorial Museum) that are still standing? The arts are just one of the fun things to explore in Huntsville!
For most of us, our dinner was the first time to visit Eclectic Studio, but the food and the art will be bringing us back for more!
Although normally specializing in vegan and vegetarian fare, the chef (Jennie Dickenson) catered to our meat-eating group with scrumptious ribs, potatoes, pasta salad, and wonderful hummus and chips.
One of our participants, Betsy Maloney, even had some of her art work on the walls, along with art by Lee Jamison and Jennie Dickenson. We’d like to thank the POLS department at SHSU for sponsoring this week’s activities and dinner!
The highlight of the evening was the tour of the Adickes’ Foundation, the old Huntsville High School on Avenue H. Containing more than 300 pieces of art by Adickes, it is a wonderful place to spend an evening….
…although, at times, there were so much art to see, we didn’t know which direction to turn!
Each of us had our favorite Adickes’ painting, and we made sure we got him in the picture with us, whether it was Karla…
…we all had fun. Even Ms. Woodward got into the selfie spirit!
But the most successful was a group selfie…
The LEAP Center Ambassadors have been to many art galleries as a group: the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Ohr-Okeefe Museum in Biloxi (designed by Frank Gehry), the High Museum in Atlanta, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Blanton Museum of Art, the Ransom Center, and more. But as one of the Ambassadors noted, “We’ve been to art museums all over the country, but this one was the coolest, because the artist is with us!”
He spent time discussing how he made certain pieces (one he used coffee to get the color right!), of how tapestries were made, or the art that was in Elvis Presley’s home…
…the stories were as interesting as the art.
And for students who are political science majors, it was a treat to hear about the night he spent in the White House, when he had the privilege of going to the Kennedy Center with George H.W. and Barbara Bush, followed by a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.
While many students take weekends off from school and learning opportunities, LEAP students took this Saturday to grow culturally by going to dinner together and attending a play in Houston. We began the evening by dining at a small cafe near our main entertainment for the evening: Cafe Express. The Cafe Express provided us with an abundance of choices ranging from flavorful salads to decadent pastas. I enjoyed their Harvest Salad, which included fresh spinach, strawberries, blueberries, walnuts, feta cheese and delicious strawberry vinaigrette dressing. While conversing about the beginning of school and classes, we got our fill of salads and pastas before the play. It was a wonderful choice as our meal before we headed down to Playhouse 1960 for the showing of “Noises Off”.
Playhouse 1960 is a non-profit community theatre that was founded in 1973 and has since been providing their community with memorable theatre productions. “Noises Off” was very much a memorable play. The first act made it very clear to the audience that it was a play within a play, and when everyone was focused on watching the stage, we were caught off guard when we heard the voice of the director, Lloyd Dallas, shout from behind our backs. Act One is the actor’s disorganized dress rehearsal, which presented us with ditzy actors missing lines, prop malfunctions and confusion coming from the stage.
It delivered abundant laughter in the audience. The intermission gave everyone a chance to catch their breath from the laughter.
Interestingly, the intermission also gave us the chance to see the stage machinations in action. Unlike most theaters, much of the scenery changing occurred with open curtains.
Act Two was a behind the scenes look at the matinee performance of “Nothing On”. This act showed the entangled romantic relationships among the cast, which led to many on-stage missteps and misspoken lines. While all of the other characters were caught in their romantic turmoil, Selsdon Mowbray (the burglar with a fondness for alcohol) provided plenty of comedic relief along with the comical actions that were taking place back stage. This act was filled with behind-the-scenes whispering and misunderstandings among the cast while they performed their play. The act ended with a cliffhanger with the announcement of a pregnancy, which left us wanting to know more.
In Act Three, the actors are on their last show of the tour. With all of the relationship mishaps between the actors, we could see the growing tensions. The tensions were resolved with the more rational actors trying their best to tie up the play. Once the play had reached a point of no return, it ended with a quick confusing wedding ceremony. The entirety of “Noises Off” had us laughing until the end.
Afterwards we were even able to have our group picture taken with the entire cast!
We knew that today would be great because we were going to spend part of the day shopping! Early Monday morning we hit the squares to find souvenirs, clothes, and candy. City Market is full of small shops that are all unique. As we were shopping we also had the opportunity to visit many of the areas within the historical district we learned about the day before. After we finished City Market, we also walked down River Street (conveniently named for its location on the Savannah River) to do some last minute shopping and enjoy the view. The group bought gifts for our family members, including lots of candy from the Savannah Candy Kitchen. We all have thoroughly enjoyed the pralines. Savannah has the best by far! With all the purchases and walking around the squares we worked up quite an appetite and we decided to try a local pizzeria called Your Pie.
Your Pie was a welcome break from the heat and humidity Savannah summers offer. We decided to split the ten inch pizzas, which turned out to be the perfect sharing size. However, before the pizza arrived, we indulged in cheese sticks, but we considered them to be more like cheese bread. Megan and Alex decided to custom make their pizza, while Kaitlyn and Karla opted for a specialty pizza called “The Nat”. When the pizzas arrived, we were not disappointed at all. Fresh out of the wood fire oven, the cheese was perfectly gooey.
Rumored to have the best cupcakes in Savannah, we wanted to see for ourselves! After ordering various flavors, we agreed that the Rich Butter Vanilla cupcake was our favorite.
After lunch, we continued our sightseeing of historic Savannah. Our first stop was to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Built in 1863, the cathedral is one of the tallest structures in Savannah.
When walking in, we all paused in amazement of the intricacies and beautiful interior of the Cathedral.
The church brings many visitors every year because of its beauty and Gothic architecture. One of the intricate details of the church included numerous stained glass windows with detailed biblical scenes on them.
The walls also had decorative narratives from the Bible.
The grandeur of the Cathedral can be observed from every angle which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Also, in our free time we visited Chipewa Square where Forrest Gump filmed a scene where Forrest famously says “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” In an effort to recreate the picture, we searched the bench where the scene was filmed, but came to the conclusion that the bench had been moved for the purpose of filming the movie and chose one with a similar view.
Although it sounded daunting, we were excited to begin the 178 step climb up to the top of the light house. The climb up to the light house served as a great workout for us!
We eventually all reached the top of the light house which is 145 feet tall and 154 feet above sea level. Some of us were nervous to step out onto the ledge of the light house but everyone eventually got to enjoy the view despite the phobia of heights. We even got a peek at the lighthouse lens, which was always on and required a 1,000 watt bulb–the brightness of which was amplified by numerous and layered reflectors.
The system that was put in place consists of two lightbulbs, one in use and one ready to light up when the other burns out.
The top was windy, but it didn’t stop us from taking selfies…
…and group shots…
and shots of the view from the top.
After taking many pictures at the top and enjoying the view along with the breeze, we descended down the flight of stairs again. Once we finally reached the ground we were able to tour the homes of the Lighthouse Keepers that were built in 1881. We enjoyed wandering inside the homes and finding old metal irons and telephones that had once been used.
In the museum, we learned about the origin of the settlers and meaning of Tybee. The Spanish were the first to arrive on Tybee and we also learned that “Tybee” is a Native American word for salt. As we walked through the museum, we were able to see how much has changed in the past century. We saw an old diving outfit that had a helmet which weighed 31 pounds! We also walked through an exhibit that showed the evolution of the swimsuit, which we found very interesting. The museum had an exit onto the roof top so we went up and enjoyed the beachfront view for a while before heading to dinner.
After the adventurous tour at the light house and Fort Screven, we headed to the Crab Shack for dinner. Throughout our travels, many people recommended the restaurant to us, making it a must try! The restaurant’s decor was interesting and the food was great (visitors be warned: no air-conditioning). We had their specialty sampler dish for three with shrimp, crab, crawfish, mussels, potatoes, sausage, and corn. Our food was served on one larger tray which brought enough food for the entire group of six to eat.
The restaurant also has a mini-gator farm, where patrons can feed the baby gators with “gator treats” (for $3…).
Since we were extremely close to the ocean, we hoped the seafood would live up to our grand expectations and we were satisfied when we walked away.
At the beach, we enjoyed the waves and the sunshine.
While some of us searched for seashells on the beach, others went swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. Luckily for us, it was perfect weather for a day at the beach. Of course, before we left, we took some nice pictures on the beach, one with our backs to the beach…
…and one facing the beach…
…and even one of us jumping…
Ending our delicious dinner and fun times at the beach, was time to get back to the hotel to freshen up for the Kentucky Kick off Reception.
As the day came to a close, we joined the other participants of the STL conference on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. This was a kickoff social for the upcoming STL Conference in Lexington, Kentucky next year. Governor Beshear of Kentucky, Kentucky Speaker of the House, the Kentucky President of the Senate, and the Mayor of Lexington flew in and gave an introductory speech and expressed their excitement for the upcoming STL Conference in Lexington by formally inviting guests.
The highlight of the speeches was Governor Beshear’s, which highlighted themes of togetherness:
I want to talk about what brings us together. You know about Kentucky’s horses, and the Kentucky Derby; you know about the first Saturday in May; you know about our history; but I want to stress more substantive things, what really brings people together: short, tall, black, white, male, female. Kentucky Bourbon!
He also highlighted the success they’ve had in the production of bourbon. Kentucky has 4.4 million residents and 5 million barrels of bourbon, how fascinating is that? “That’s one barrel for every resident, and the rest is for you!,” he exclaimed, to much applause.As it turns out, Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon, and the other 5%, according to Governor Beshear, “is counterfeit.”
The group closed with a serviceable rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home,” and many in the audience knew enough words to follow along. The song was written by Stephen Foster, the “father of American Music,” who also wrote “Oh! Susannah” and “Camptown Races.”
Sadly, no one offered to sing “The Eyes of Texas” or “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
There were small refreshments for us to enjoy throughout the night. We tasted the ham and beef mini sandwiches. Also, the homemade bread pudding was scrumptious. I think all of us would agree that we have had the best and second best versions of bread pudding we’ve ever tried, although we were in disagreement as to whether the Paula Deen bread pudding (with rum sauce) was better, or whether the Kentucky version (with bourbon and more icing) was the best. Our plan was to wait on the bread pudding until we got to its home, New Orleans, but that plan went out the window.
The others tried the various cheeses that were available and seemed to have been a fan. Kentucky did a great job of putting out the best of the state. We watched the mingling for a while and after a while decided that tomorrow will come early, so it was time to head back to the hotel. On the walk home I reflected in the day and was kind of sad that my stay in Savannah will soon be over. For a few of us, Professor Yawn treated us to a bike taxi which was a fun way to end the evening and see a little more of beautiful Savannah!
Each day, we’ve been having a great time learning and experiencing new things. Tomorrow, we will make the most of the day…for it will be our last day full day in Savannah.
Although none of us got more than four hours of sleep, we were excited to explore Atlanta, Georgia. The morning started off pretty sweet with a visit the World of Coca-Cola. The staff were welcoming and made us all excited to explore the grounds. The self-guided tour was interesting because they made every room in the two-story building represent all parts of the world.
Coca-Cola was invented by John Pemberton in 1886. It has evolved from a local refreshment to a worldwide assortment of beverages that are unique to its environment.
We learned all sorts of fascinating facts about the history of the coke, how they are created and assembled, advertisements, and we even had the opportunity to watch a 4-D movie about “the secret of the Coke”. One of the highlights of our visit, was a photo opportunity with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear…
To conclude our visit we entered the taste testing room where we sampled Coca-Cola products from all seven continents. It was great to taste what others around the world drink every day.
For lunch we stopped at a New York City style deli called Reuben’s Deli. As soon as we entered the Deli we realized that it was filled with lively chaos which made ordering a bit of a task. When it was our turn to order we were being hollered at and expected to yell back while ordering, if not they couldn’t hear you past all of the other noise and you would not receive your meal. When it was my turn to order I asked for a Godfather sandwich on honey wheat toast. I yelled out what I wanted in my sandwich which included tomato and spinach as additives, but I wasn’t loud enough so I didn’t receive the tomatoes. Even without the tomatoes, my Godfather sandwich was by far the best sandwich I have had from a deli. The bread was soft and sweet and not dry like wheat bread usually is. Others at the table ordered hotdogs and Philly cheese steaks, and Kaitlyn purchased one of their oversized chocolate chip cookies which she kindly shared with us.
Next, we stopped for a quick photo at Martin Luther King’s gravesite. It was a beautiful gravesite where he was buried alongside his wife, Coretta Scott King. Their gravesite was surrounded by a pool which made it a perfect scene.
After our quick photo we moved to our next destination, the state Capitol. At the very beginning of our self-guided tour, we ran into a nice gentleman who turned out to be Georgia Representative Tom Taylor. In fact, he was so nice, he offered to give us a tour.
He started by telling us about himself and then shared some of his favorite governor portraits with us. One of the interesting stories he shared is the background of the Lester Maddox portrait (Maddox was a Governor of Georgia from 1967-1971). Maddox didn’t get along with the state’s largest newspaper, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and he often said that the only thing it was useful for was for wrapping dead fish. In his official governor’s portrait, Maddox included an interesting detail in the background:
In case you can’t see it, here’s a close-up of the bottom right corner:
Yes, that is the newspaper wrapped around a dead fish!
We moved on to the House Chamber where Representative Taylor told us history of the chairs and desks and then gave us an overview of how things work in the state House of Representatives.
The house still uses the original desks from the 1860s. Although the desks are original, they have been updated. The desk was originally equipped with an ashtray, which has now been converted to an electronics outlet; a microphone has replaced the old ink-holder for their quill pens; and while the drink coaster is still there, it’s now used for coffee or water rather than Bourbon.
We were also given a chance to occupy the spots used by the Representatives, and we had fun posing in positions we may actually occupy officially in the future.
Amazingly, Representative Taylor offered to take us to the Governor’s Office, where we took a group picture, were given some “official Georgia peanuts,” and took photos of the office.
Representative Taylor also guided us into the Secretary of State’s office where we were given state flags as souvenirs. At that point, Representative Taylor had to depart, so we continued on our self-guided tour, but not for long. We stopped into the Senate chambers, took a fun photo…
As we were about to leave, the Parliamentarian and Secretary of the Senate, David Cook, greeted us and offered to show us around the chamber! By this time, we were feeling pretty important, but we think the reality is that the folks in the Georgia Capitol are just very welcoming. He gave us a great tour of the senate where we learned a lot and got to take plenty of pictures. Secretary Cook also showed us a “cheat sheet” for parliamentary procedures that he keeps on the podium, and he explained some of them to us.
Also, each one of us got to slam the gavel, as though we were were presiding over the Senate.
It was great to be welcomed with such hospitality. We definitely learned more than we expected about Georgia’s legislative branch.
Following our exciting VIP capitol tour, we hurried over to the Carter Presidential Library. During the capitol tour, we learned that Jimmy Carter was previously a governor of Georgia. This was the perfect transition for the Presidential Library. Jimmy Carter was elected to office in 1977. The library began with a video which gave visitors background information on President Carter and his life.
Arranged as a timeline, the museum began with the birth of President Carter, proceeded through his early life and political career, and ended with his numerous awards.
The library contained extensive amounts of history, but also more personable artifacts such as President Carter’s childhood report card, or the President and First Lady’s passport. Dispersed throughout the museum, videos of President Carter and first lady Rosalynn played adding a more personable element throughout the library. Emphasized throughout the museum, President Carter and Rosalynn’s commitment to serving people and helping to establish world-wide relations to promote world peace were clear. The library gave visitors a better understanding of President Carter’s accomplishments in the White House, but also who he is as a person. The Carter Presidential Library is situated on beautiful grounds, giving us the perfect opportunity to take stop for photos.
Atlanta’s High Museum of Art was the next stop. The High Museum of Art consists of more than 14,000 pieces of art ranging from American, European, and African…the list goes on. The building is four stories high with all forms of art (photography, sculptures, paintings, and furniture) displayed throughout. It was a special day because as we admired the art a live band played great tunes.
The combination of the two were perfect and made the visit unforgettable. The museum offered a variety of styles to fit everyone’s palate. The group all had different favorites, however one in particular stood out to me. The Crochet Chair proved my favorite because of its uniqueness, but also its practicality. Created by Marcel Waders, this piece proved its originality with its simplistic concept. Another group favorite was more interactive, allowing visitors to listen to each other from a distance without creating extra noise.
We also enjoyed paintings by Thomas Moran, Childe Hassam, Ernest Lawson,William Haseltine, Thornton Dial, and Mr. Imagination, the latter of which is a folk artist who actually appeared at the Wynne Home a few years ago.
Words and pictures do not capture the beauty of the artwork, but after spending a few hours exploring the massive art museum, we departed the museum–but not the grounds. The grounds had been decorated with “yarnbombs,” decorative and useful objects that attract people to create my relaxing….
…and dynamic locations in a city…
…and it certainly worked for us!
Dinner was different from what we anticipated. We were supposed to be stopping at West Egg Cafe for dinner, but we found ourselves in the Odd Bird instead because the West Egg Cafe turns into the Odd Bird after 3pm. The menu for the Odd Bird was limited to Chicken Biscuit sandwiches, Chicken Sandwiches and Chicken and Waffles. Three of us ordered the BBQ Chicken Sandwich which came with coleslaw and pickles and the other three ordered the Chicken Biscuit. I am a barbecue fanatic so I was pretty excited for my BBQ Chicken Sandwich, but when it arrived I realized that the Barbecue sauce from the Odd Bird tasted more like buffalo sauce than barbecue. I believe that the Odd Bird lived up to its name with its odd sauce. After we were through eating our entrees, we indulged ourselves with blueberry custard pie which left a sweet taste for the road, but after a wonderful dinner at John’s City Dinner the night before, Oddbirds was a bit of a let-down.
We had heard much about the view from the Jackson Street Bridge, so that’s where we headed. The view lived up to its name, giving us a beautiful view of the downtown skyline at sunset.
In fact, the view turned us in to shutterbugs, and we enjoyed it immensely.
The sun had set by the time we arrived at the Botanical Garden of Atlanta so we were able to go into the garden while it was filled with lights. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by a gorgeous piece of glass art called the Nepenthes Chandelier by Dale Chilhuly that was hanging from the ceiling (with Maple Leaf Rag) by David Horner in the background).
As we walked a bit further into the gardens we were able to see another piece of glass art by Dale Chilhuly called Parterre Fountain.
The main feature of the garden at night was a temporary and special exhibit by Bruce Munro, who specializes in art made from fiber-optic lights. Making our way through the gardens we passed numerous amounts of beautiful flowers like orchids in full bloom and Munro’s complementary art….
…and we then walked over a bridge which gave a beautiful view of colored lights below us and led us to a statue of a woman covered in over 1800 individual plants.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden was a peaceful way to end our adventure-filled day.
It was 3:00 a.m and while most were sleeping, LEAP Center students hit the road to begin our tour of the Deep South. We were so excited to go on this 8 day trip because for most us, it was our first time in many of the destinations we will hit upon. Although Georgia is our final destination, we traversed a total of five: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Each state border presented the perfect opportunity for a quick stop and a group photo!
To pass the time in the car, we played Charades, Trivia Crack, and Catch Phrase! The day was filled with many laughs and fun facts which made the 21 hour drive fly by!
Our first stop was in Louisiana, just outside the small town of Gibsland. What an excitement it was to see the historical marker where the infamous Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were killed. Learning about Bonnie and Clyde in the classroom is interesting enough, but being at the historical marker really personified the history of the two. After this first stop I knew the day would be nothing less than amazing, and it was.
Our first major stop of the day included a tour of the Civil War Battlefield at Vicksburg and lunch. Upon arrival, we viewed a film that taught us important background information about the battle and the grounds. During the Civil War, Vicksburg was a major holding point for the Confederacy. Bordering the Mississippi River, Vicksburg linked the two halves of the Confederacy together allowing them to pass supplies and support throughout the South. Several times during the war, General Ulysses S. Grant tried and failed multiple times to take control of Vicksburg from the Confederacy. However, on July 4th, 1863 the Union succeeded when the Confederacy surrendered its control of Vicksburg.
Following the documentary film, we loaded back into the car to proceed through the park where each state who sent soldiers to Vicksburg built a monument in recognition of their service and dedication to the war efforts. The first monument was also the most impressive. Illinois’ monument was intriguing for many reasons. Before entering the intricate dome, visitors climb 47 stairs, representing the 47 days Vicksburg was under siege.
Visitors now see vast hills covered in lush, green grass, but 150 years ago, these grounds constituted a deadly a battlefield. Even today, the lines of the trenches can still be seen underneath the grass.
In addition to seeing the war efforts on the battlefield, visitors also see the U.S.S. Cairo, which was sunk by the Confederates in 1862 and now resides in the park. Previously powered by steam, the ship required numerous crew members to maintain it. Interestingly, the crew members shoveled one ton of coal every hour just to help the ship move nine miles per hour!
Nearing the end of the tour, LEAP students braved the heat once more to catch a glimpse of the Mississippi River from a cliff overlooking the river. From afar, we admired the power and beauty of the river as we piled back into the van to head to lunch.
Following our tour at the park, we stopped to eat lunch at Martin’s in downtown Vicksburg. Immediately greeted with southern hospitality, we knew the meal was going to be great! A soup and sandwich style restaurant, the chicken salad with avocado was the favorite among many. Martin’s left us full, and ready for the next leg of our trip.
Upon arrival to the state Capitol of Mississippi in Jackson, we were very nicely welcomed by the visitor’s center with pins of the state Capitol. The very first artifact noted on our tour was our tour guide’s favorite piece in the building, the 1903 water fountain. This fountain was definitely much different from what we have today. Today we have a cooling system built in the water fountain, but back then we would need a block of ice if we wanted cool water.
The Capitol was built in 1903 as Beaux Arts architecture style on the site of the old state penitentiary. It was built from funds awarded to the state of Mississippi from back taxes by the Illinois Central Railroad, and at the time cost about a million dollars–about 300 million today.
A very different feature at this building were the light fixtures. It has about 4,760 light fixtures, with 750 in the rotunda alone. It is a very special fixture that beautifully lights up the interior of the building.
The tour was expansive, covering the entire capitol. The first floor holds the hall of governors, and the second floor holds the original Supreme Court Chamber which now serves as the Senate Committee Room. On the third floor we found the offices of the Governor, the Lt. Governor, the Speaker of the House, and both the House and Senate Chambers. We got to spend time in both legislative chambers, and the setting was beautiful.
We even got to role play a bit…
Then on the fourth floor were the galleries where we got a clearer view of the House and Senate where we got to closely admire the domes of each chamber. The corridors of the fourth floor were especially different. Glass cylinders in the corridor floors to allow light to pass through the floor and illuminate the stained glass panels in the ceiling of the third floor.
Finally, we ended the wonderful tour with a stop at the exterior where we admired the 8 foot tall made of solid copper which adorns the top of the capitol building.
As well as the nice view the Capitol grounds offer…
Many thanks to our wonderful tour guide, Ms. Pauline Akers.
Surprisingly, we had time for a stop at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. We were greeted by a wonderful sculpture by the recently deceased Jesus Moroles.
We wandered the beautiful gardens, while playing around taking pictures…of the sunset…
…us in the rose garden…
…and ourselves among the many plants in the gardens…
Dining at John’s City Diner for dinner, the group was in for a real treat. Located in the heart of Birmingham, the diner’s decorum fitted with both modern and retro styles. Before our meals came, we had the opportunity to try fried oysters and “Fancy Bacon”, the latter of which was particularly tasty. When the meals came, the group was shocked. Many ordered John’s famous macaroni and cheese, which others order the chicken and waffles. Astounded by the portion sizes, we savored every bite we could. Dessert was just as delicious too, sampling from the restaurants most popular: Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding, White Chocolate Bread Pudding, and Frozen Lemonade Pie.
After a delicious dinner at John’s City Diner, we rushed to The Vulcan Park to experience the 65 foot tower overlooking the city. The Vulcan is a Roman methodological figure who was the god of the forge (metal shop). He was an outcast and did not gain relevance until marrying the goddess of love and beauty, Venus. City leaders decided to build The Vulcan in Birmingham for modernization and to represent its success in the industrial business. Looking at The Vulcan was much less intimidating than going up the 65 foot sculpture, but we overcame our fear of heights and made our way up. We gazed upon the beautifully lit city and were captivated.
It also gave us a moment to appreciate the history of the Vulcan, its representation, and the contribution Birmingham.
Following the Vulcan stop, we headed toward the Kelly Ingram Park. It’s a beautiful, moving park focused on Civil Rights, but 10:30pm on a Thursday night (or any night) is not the time to stop there. After dodging some shady characters, we were able to see the “Dog Attack” sculpture by James Drake. It is a disturbing and unsettling sculpture designed to give visitors a sense of what African Americans must have felt in the early 1960s, when Birmingham Officials (most notably, Bull Connor) used dogs to intimidate and, at times, maul African Americans.
Finally, we departed for our final stop of the day, Atlanta. Hoping to get some rest and be refreshed for a full day of sightseeing tomorrow, we hurried to find our hotel.