Deep in the Art of West Texas

By: Peyton Reed

We began our day with a trip to Cedar Coffee and Supply. The coffee shop was incredibly popular and trendy, something unexpected from a small town in the middle of west Texas. We each ordered an assortment of coffees off of the menu and had a delicious breakfast. Half of us ordered the Red Hatter, a delicious Belgian waffle covered in Rose Crème and fresh, organic strawberries.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Alpine, Cedar Coffee and Supply

The other half ordered the Ol’ Faithful, a hearty bagel with bacon, a fried egg and spinach. The morning was full of good conversation and stories told by Mark Burns.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Alpine, Cedar Coffee and Supply, Mark Burns

After, Mark left to head back home and we explored the shop next door that had art from local woodworkers.

 We went back to the hotel for a few hours of editing, then we revisited our new favorite coffee shop for Coffee milkshakes, Nitro Floats, Rose Lemonade, and a Basil Snap. After fueling up on coffee, we headed to the Museum of The Big Bend on the Sul Ross Campus. We enjoyed seeing the historical exhibits…

…history of photography installation, and an original mural painted by Xavier Gonzalez that is believed to have been painted while he was a student.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Alpine, Sul Ross, Museum of The Big Bend

 While downtown, we wandered into a co-op ran by a coalition of local artist who take turns running the shop. We purchased a couple of pieces, and I stepped in to help the artist running the shop change the receipt paper when it ran out.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Alpine, Gallery On The Square, Peyton Reed

While browsing, we met an artist named Tim McKenna, the photographer who composed the images used in the 2018 Big Bend Calendar. He took us to the art co-op next door and told us the stories behind some of our favorite images of his. We all purchased some of his prints, and even got a photograph with him and his wife, Julie.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Alpine, Gallery On The Square, Tim McKenna

 Once we finished purchasing our pieces of art from the second Co-op, we were all ready for dinner, so we walked across the street to “Guzzi up,” a local restaurant. For starters, we had the garlic bread and spinach artichoke dip.


The appetizers were amazing and devoured within minutes. For dinner we ordered an assortment of items off the menu, a Margherita pizza, The Libby sandwich, a buffalo chicken sandwich, and grilled cheese with spinach and artichoke soup.

 After dinner, we drove to the Prada Marfa art installation, which was about an hour from Alpine, Texas. Surrounded by a fence with locks left by people in love, the Prada building contains genuine Prada items, six bags and thirteen right shoes. As the sun set, we photographed the building and fence…

…and even got our signature LEAP shot.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Alpine, Prada Marfa, Maggie Denena, Peyton Reed, Anne Jamarik

The day was jam packed with lots of coffee, art, sightseeing, and invaluable experiences.

Big Bend or Bust!

Our first day in West Texas started early as we departed our hotel at 5 am. The drive to Big Bend National Park from Alpine, TX is around an hour and half which gave us plenty of time to load up on coffee and good conversation. As we were driving along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, a 30.9 mile road located in the center of the park that is primarily used for biking and scenic driving, we saw an opportunity to get some great shots of the sunrise, and we took it. We all looked on (and even helped when he would let us) as Mark Burns unloaded his meticulously packed car on the side of the road and began to set up his equipment to capture the perfect shot of the sun just over the horizon. Mark showed us the process of how he plans his shots: setting up his camera…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Big Bend, Mark Burns

…checking the light with a light meter…

SHSU, LEAP Center, Big Bend, Mark Burns

and snapping a quick shot with an old Polaroid camera.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Big Bend, Mark Burns

After getting a few great shots, we loaded back up and began scouting a new spot to get some footage. We found a new location at the Sotol Vista Overlook, that was also right off of the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, to get some great shots of Mark Burns driving on the winding road below. The Sotol Vista Overlook provides a spectacular view of the western side of Big Bend National Park and offered a beautiful but hazy view of Burro Mesa due to a fire located in the Upper Burro Mesa.


Next, we headed to the Boquillas Canyon Overlook where we found a rock covered in handcrafted, wire and bead knick-knacks shaped as road runners, peacocks and cacti.

We all picked out our favorite piece to take home as souvenirs. We even got to meet the two men who made them. Each day, they wade across the Rio Grande River from Mexico to replenish their supply and collect any money people have left for them in a weighted-down water bottle. Just as we were loading up the car for our next location, Mark stopped us because he saw a perfect opportunity to take a photo of the Canyon. We were able to see Mark use what is called a cable shutter release. A cable shutter release is a cable plugged into the camera and is able to release the shutter with a limited amount of movement to the camera. This is especially helpful when the camera is set to a long shutter speed. Watching Mark work with different tools is always interesting to watch.



We hit the road again until Maggie and Anne then got a spark of bravery (re: ignorance) and scaled an old stone tunnel to get the perfect aerial shot of Mark entering and exiting the tunnel.

After risking it all on the crumbling stones, we decided to take a break from our Evil Kinevil like stunts and stop for a quick picnic. At the Rio Grande Village, we stopped at the visitor’s center and ate a quick lunch while Mark told more stories.


After lunch, Mark suggested we visit the Hot Springs. We came across a hike down to the Hot Springs trail which, if I am being honest, was not as impressive as I had hoped. The trail is a 1.1 mile loop that is classified as easy, is moderately trafficked and is primarily used for hiking, biking and bird watching. We decided to do a little off road exploring to get a better view of the Rio Grande river.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Big Bend, Anne Jamarik, Maggie Denena, Peyton Reed

The Springs were murky and muddy, so we decide not to get in, but there were a few brave tourists who were swimming when we approached. The coolest aspect of the Hot Springs Trail was the old  General Store that had been run down to ruins.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Big Bend, Hot Springs, General Store

Mark snapped a quick photo of the old structure with his old Polaroid camera.

After hiking to the springs, we loaded into the car and drove to Sana Elena Canyon. While on our way, a torrential downpour left us feeling less than confident about the views and the photos we would be able to get of the Canyon. Never the less, we found a way to have fun and admire the views that Sana Elena Canyon had to offer.


After the muddy mess of an adventure, we were back to work at Balanced Rock. As we hiked up to the incredible view, we saw many multi colored lizards that we were sure to capture close photos of.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Big Bend, Balanced Rock

We took a few stops on our way up the mountain and got to ask Mark about some of his favorite national parks and most unique experiences. Mark told us amazing stories about the wild life in Alaska and the underwater photographs he got to take while in Florida at Biscayne National Park. While Mark was telling stories, Anne ran back to the car to grab a microphone and ran into two javelinas. Once we reached Balanced Rock, we listened as Mark described his last visit to the area four years ago when he captured the photo used in the National Parks Photography Project. The lighting and cloud coverage was perfect, something Mark did not have when he originally took his photo of Balanced Rock. Mark placed his camera tripod in the same exact spot it had been four years prior and snapped a beautiful picture of Balanced Rock.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Big Bend, Balanced Rock, Mark Burns

Maggie got brave and scaled a large rock to get an aerial shot of Mark as he talked about his previous trips to Big Bend. After many great shots from Balanced Rock, we headed back down the trail as the sunset, which offered the perfect view as we ended our day. We loaded up the car one last time and made our way back to the hotel, in preparation of another busy day–exploring Alpine and Marfa, Texas–ahead of us.


Ambling Across Arizona

By: Anne Jamarik and Maggie Denena

Today, LEAP Center students hiked up to Devil’s Bridge in Sedona, Arizona. With narrow spaces and lots of steep “steps”, the hike up was slightly more challenging than our previous hike, but we knew the payoff would be worth it. The trail was steep but offered shady spots that we took advantage of when we would stop to admire the red rock of the canyon (and catch our breaths). The narrow path was lined with prickly pear cacti, tall century plants and hikers sitting to get some water and rest for a moment. Once we made it to the top of the bridge, we knew all the climbing had been worth it. The views from Devil’s Bridge were breathtaking.SHSU, LEAP Center, Sedona, Devil's Bridge


Just as we began feeling brave, we met a man who asked us to take a photo of him doing a handstand on top of the narrow bridge, putting us all to shame.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Sedona, Devil's Bridge

While on the bridge, we made a small cairn, which, according to Professor Yawn, officially made us hikers.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Sedona, Devil's Bridge, Maggie Denena, Anne Jamarik


After admiring the views from Devil’s Bridge, we began the trek down, but not without a few pitstops. We went down and caught a quick glimpse of the bridge from below.

SHSU, LEAP Center, Sedona, Devil's Bridge, Maggie DenenaThe trip down seemed much easier as we were all still so amazed at what we had just experienced.


After a quick bite to eat at The Wildflower Bread Company in Flagstaff, Arizona, the LEAP center explored the town square. The square on Friday evenings is vibrant with people shopping and eating at the unique food joints.


We visited a cool little bookstore where there was a live performance from a local band while the small crowd sang along to a song about mermaids.

After our group slowly made our way around the store reading the back of books and discussing ones we’ve read, we headed to a local favorite co-op art gallery and window shopped. Unfortunately, the gallery was closed, but we were still able to admire the beautiful works of art within. Next, we headed to a mystical store called Crystal Magic, where we all shared a few laughs about the shops interesting perspective. We continued our way around the square admiring local cuisine and the different types of people around each corner. Finally, we made our way through their local mall, which offered fashion of all types and a fun candy shop. I had never tried chocolate covered orange peels and surprisingly liked them! One thing I thought was interesting about Flagstaff was how active the square was on a Friday night, there were people everywhere! It really added to the fun and easy-going vibe of the town. I thought it was neat how all the restaurants were locally owned, each offering their own unique menu.  Flagstaff is a town I would enjoy visiting again and hopefully trying out a few of the favorite food joints.

New Leadership Texas: 2018

DAY 1 – Thursday, by Victoria McClendon-Leggett

Our first event of the 6-day forum was a workshop run by Dr. Teri Varner, Associate Professor at St. Edwards University. The workshop focused on making impactful introductions for speakers. I found it extremely helpful as a LEAP Ambassador because the steady stream of speakers and guests that we regularly bring to campus need introductions to the groups they’re brought in to speak to. This was our first workshop because of the fact that every forum participant was required to interview and then use that information to introduce at least one of the speakers during the week.

Then was the panel titled “Women in Politics.” The panelists were Dr. Susan Heinzelman, the Director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas, Maggie Buchanan, President of Maggie Jo Consulting, and Kimberly Inez McGuire, Senior Program Director at Conway Strategic. Also included in this panel was none other than Nancy Bocskor, the President of the Nancy Bocskor Company.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, New Leadership Texas, Nancy Bocskor

Nancy has been a guest speaker for the LEAP Center many times, and was a FIR (Faculty in Residence) for the Forum. The women in this panel focused on their experiences in politics, and the challenges and triumphs that came with those experiences.

DAY 2 – Friday

Our first event of the day was a panel titled “Why YOU Should Consider Running for Office,” and it featured Gina Hinojosa, a Texas State Representative, Delia Garza, an Austin City Council Member, and Sheryl Cole, a Texas State Representative Candidate. Also included in this panel was another one of the LEAP Center’s previous guest speakers, the Chairman of the Railroad Commission, Christi Craddick (who gave a wonderful talk to SHSU women in January!). The four women talked about their respective journeys before, during, and after getting elected to their respected offices. The panelists also shared many of the difficulties they faced in getting to where they are now.

The next workshop was titled “Networking and Making Connections,” and was led by Karen Landolt, a professor for the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, New Leadership Texas, Karen Landolt

Ms. Lundolt talked about the importance of using weak ties like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Weak ties are connections that you’re able to make over social media with people that you wouldn’t have been able to connect with otherwise, and they’re becoming increasingly important in the 21st century.

After lunch, we had a short walk across campus to the Texas Union through the hill country heat. We were headed to hear from the Forum’s keynote speaker, Representative Mary Gonzalez.


She shared with us her education, how she got her start in Texas politics, the daily problems that face her constituents and what she is doing to try and help them, and the different challenges that she faces as a woman in a field dominated by men. After the keynote address, we posed for a quick group photo with her…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, New Leadership Texas, Nancy Bocskor

…and then we were welcomed to a spread of fruit and sweets in the next room as a part of a reception that the Forum hosted for us and Representative Gonzalez.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, New Leadership Texas,

Day 3, Saturday

Our third day began with a workshop that explored our different leadership styles. Susan Billmaier is a Program Officer at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and she specializes in workshops that support and encourage personal journeys, leadership styles, diversity and inclusion, and conflict resolution. By the end of the session we found ourselves divided into four different groups, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, and we all thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about each other in this type of setting.

After a small coffee break, the Community Advocate Panel began. This panel was geared towards getting young women to become more active on a local level. The three panelists were all active in the Austin area. The panel shifted towards the panelists giving advice to all the young women of the forum. The main message that all three panelists could agree on was to stay true to yourself and your cultural identity.

The next workshop was titled “Texas Civic Health Index Report and Civic Reflection.” The goal of this workshop was to get the students involved in interactive civics exercises. We took a quiz to determine our level of civic engagement and compared our responses with our peers. We then discussed the factors that may contribute to some of us being more civically engaged than others. We learned that education is one of the main factors that impacts civic engagement.

Our last workshop of day 3 focused on Unconscious Bias. The workshop was run by Yulanda McCarty-Harris, and it focused on recognizing unconscious bias, who has unconscious bias, and how to combat it. Ms. McCarty-Harris was incredibly animated and everyone was engaged and interested. The second part of the Unconscious Bias workshop was a panel that featured Courtney Chavez, Dr.Ted Gordon, and Lana Petru. They all gave their insights as to what our society can do to combat unconscious bias.

DAY 4 – Sunday

Our first session of the day was “Political Fundraising” by Nancy Bocskor.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, New Leadership Texas, Chairman Christi Craddick, Nancy Bocskor
Chairman Christi Craddick, Victoria McClendon-Leggett, and Nancy Bocskor

She gave a rousing speech on her experiences as a democracy coach around the world. She shared with us the same fundraising principles that she’s taught to people in all 50 states and in 27 different countries across the world. We learned how to utilize any organizations that we may be involved in, and that people we know are twice as likely to donate to any cause that we ask them over strangers.

Our second session of the day was a panel titled “How Tech is Shaping Politics,” and it featured three panelists that were experts in the field of technology and politics. They talked about how they use technology in their careers, and the different ways that technology can help and hinder political action.

“Managing your Message” was a session led by Jenifer Sarver, a professor in the Moody College of Communications at The University of Texas. Her presentation focused on effective communication. We touched on how to present yourself, considering your audience rather than simply the message that you want to convey, and working to establish your credibility. She also stressed the importance of using visual aids when attempting to get your message across.

DAY 5 – Monday

Our fifth day began with us grabbing a quick breakfast and loading up on a charter bus to head to Austin City Hall for a tour. We learned about the building’s architecture and how it was created to have a low impact on the environment. We also observed all the art pieces inside the building and we learned that they were all done by local artists. At the end of the year, Austinites are able to cast a vote to pick their favorite piece, and the City of Austin purchases that piece and adds it to its collection. We paused for a group picture up on one of the terraces of the building before heading back inside for a panel titled “Women in City Leadership.” The panel consisted of women that work in various city government positions within the City of Austin. They gave us advice on finding mentors, balancing our families and careers, and finding our passions after graduating college. When the panel ended, we were presented with certificates of congratulations from the City of Austin for completing the NEW Leadership program.

After our time at Austin City Hall, we stopped by Scholz Garden for lunch.


It was a German Restaurant where we were served some delicious fajitas. A few of us finished early and went outside to pose for a few photos with our newfound friends while we waited for the charter bus to come pick us back up to head to the State Capitol Building.

When we arrived at the Capitol, it was many of the NEW Leadership participants’ first time there. We took a special tour that focused on the women that helped shape our state’s history. For instance, we learned about a woman named Obedience Fort Smith who followed her son to Texas and owned 3,368 acres in what is now of the City of Houston. Tranquility Park, a park commemorating the Apollo 11 moon landing is a part of the land that was presented to her in 1845.

We then heard from four different women involved in Texas Politics. We heard from Donna Howard, a Texas State Representative, and then Lauren Hadley who is the Director of Constituent Services for Representative Howard. Then we heard from Terri Williams, Vice-President of Government Relations for the American Heart Association, and Linda Battles, Deputy Commissioner for Agency Operations and Communications for the Texas Higher Education Board. They shared with us their struggles and triumphs they’ve experienced throughout their years in the political sphere.

After a group photo in the capital…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, New Leadership Texas

…we headed back to our dorm rooms on UT’s campus. We changed out of our business casual attire for once and were able to just comfortably lounge while we worked on our political action projects that were due to be presented the next day.

DAY 6 – Tuesday

In the morning we began our day by presenting our Political Action Project that we had been working on periodically throughout the week. The project was a mock hearing on House Bill 316 (a reformation on Texas’s Law of Parties). Some students played the role of representatives that were either for or against the bill, some students were reporters asking questions of the representatives about the bill, and some students played the role of family members and friends offering testimony about how Texas’s Law of Parties had impacted their lives. The mock bill passed, and those of us that had been in opposition good-naturedly recognized our defeat.

After presenting our political action project, we heard from Lizzie Robbins, the State Program Manager for IGNITE Texas. IGNITE is an organization designed to teach young women to be civically engaged and step into public service. She gave us information on how to start IGNITE chapters on our own college campuses. We also learned that online students still can be active in the organization by joining the chapter on the college campus that is closest to them.

After lunch and a debrief it was time for us all to head home. Some of us had much longer drives than others, and after hearing from 52 speakers and sitting for 35 different panels and sessions throughout the week, we were all a bit worn out. It was a bittersweet ending to the week. We were all going to miss each other and the supportive and positive environment we had all created, but we also all wanted to see our own friends, families, and beds. We all exchanged hugs and contact information and said our goodbyes. There was laughter and tears, but also the realization that many of us had created lifelong friends this week, and that NEW Leadership Texas really had opened doors for many of us.


Spreading Light During the Holidays

by Brian Aldaco

On November 28, the LEAP Ambassadors participated in one of Sam Houston’s oldest traditions. Since 1921, students and faculty at SHSU have gathered to light the university Christmas tree. Emceed by SHSU’s 2017 homecoming king and queen, this year’s ceremony included a performance by Orange Pride and an SHSU musical group. As always, the LEAPsters had their decorated wreath prepared to hang on the tree and join the wreaths of other university organizations. After hanging our wreath on the tree and singing the last few lines of Jingle Bells the ceremony ended. From all the LEAPsters, we want to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, SHSU Tree Lighting, Christmas 2017

The heART of the City: Big Fun in Huntsville

By Staci Antu

After two successful and fun sessions of heART of Huntsville, we were excited for the grand finale on our third session. We started off at the Huntsville Statue and Visitor Center, where we met Visitor Services Coordinator, Jamie Matthews.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Huntsville Statue and Visitor Center

She began by giving us an overview of the different attractions in Huntsville such as the “Big Sam” statue which has brought in numerous of tourists to the city. A map of the world was marked with pins showing the variety of countries that tourists come in from every continent (excluding Antartica).

A short video designed by the Animation Department at SHSU in partnership with the City of Huntsville explained the history behind General Sam Houston and the process its sculptor, David Adickes, implemented to build the statue. As the clip met its end we walked towards “Big Sam” and observed its beauty up close followed by a group picture at the base of the 67-foot statue!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Huntsville Statue and Visitor Center, A Profile in Courage, Big Sam, David Adickes

Led by Huntsville expert Professor Yawn, we began our tour around town, seeing outdoor sculptures and attractions along the way.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Huntsville Tour, Mike Yawn

Driving from the visitor center towards the city, Professor Yawn explained that the Goree Prison Unit had been a women’s unit and also talked about the issues of including inmates and students in Huntsville’s population.

Our first stop was “Made in the Shade” by John Stewart. As our bus driver skillfully maneuvered his way through Fire Station 1’s driveway, we admired the sculpture laying its stone body along Sam Houston Avenue. Stewart sculpted the piece to commemorate the deceased astronauts aboard the Challenger in 1986.

Our next stop was located on University Ave, where we saw a slew of older homes: the Ashford Home (once used a funeral parlor), the Rogers-Baird Home, and the old Smither Warehouse.

We then headed to Oakwood Cemetery. At the cemetery, we viewed the bronze replica of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen’s “Christus,” popularly known as the “Comforting Christ.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville,, Oakwood Cemetery, Thorwaldsen's Christ

There are four copies of the sculpture in the United States (that we know of), one of which is rumored to be in a cemetery in San Antonio. The Oakwood Cemetery version was commissioned by the Powell family to honor their youngest son who died at age 5 during a tonsillectomy surgery. We are very thankful that Mark Burns provided copies of a black-and-white photograph of the sculpture for the heART of Huntsville group. It was a memorable experience to see one of the most famous sculptures of Christ dedicated to the youngest son in the Powell family and go home with a special photograph by Mr. Burns.

After the cemetery, it was time to meet for dinner at Carbonero’s a Salvadorian cuisine restaurant where we enjoyed delicious tacos, enchiladas, and pupusas.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Carbonero

As always, the food was phenomenal! But the treats were not only reserved for dinner.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Carbonero

After we finished off our plates, we headed to the David Adickes Foundation. The repurposed Huntsville High School walls and hallways were decorated with Adickes’ breath taking paintings.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation

Ms. Linda Wiley, the Adickes Foundation curator, welcomed us to the foundation and she and Mr. Adickes offered a brief introduction to the gallery.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation

With his well known charisma, Mr. Adickes told us tales of his art and his time in the military, a time that he described with “the war was over, it was king of boring.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation, David Adickes

But as he told us, his travels to Europe where put to good use as he garnered a passion for painting.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation, David Adickes

Among the collections we noticed a peculiar photograph of Elvis Presley and his living room. What got our attention were a series of paintings hanging on the corner of the photographed wall. It turns out The King was a fan of Mr. Adickes and had purchased three of his paintings. After Elvis’ death, Mr. Adickes discovered the paintings and bought them back!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation, David Adickes

After enjoying Mr. Adickes’ adventure travel stories, he joined us in front of his favorite artwork to take a group selfie with the LEAP Ambassadors, former SHSU President Dr. James Gaertner, his wife Nancy Gaertner, and Ms. Wiley.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation, David Adickes

We were also very lucky to get individual pictures with Mr. Adickes in front of the ambassador’s favorite!

The Adickes Foundation tour was a great way to end our final session of heART of Huntsville. We were all happy to have gotten a chance to enjoy one of Huntsville’s best kept secrets!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, heART of Huntsville, Adickes Foundation, David Adickes

Art & Photography on the Fly: Caddo Lake & Marshall, TX

“A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.” William Wordsworth may have never seen Caddo Lake, yet it is a perfect way to describe the effect of the lake’s beauty. On this second day at the lake we were now set out to capture this captivating grandeur through the lens of Mark Burns.

Daybreak Voyage, By Ryan Knesek

The LEAP Ambassadors met with photographer Mark Burns early in the morning to continue with our documentary process. As you may remember, Mr. Burns has been a part of the National Parks Project where he photographed all fifty-nine national parks in black and white.

On this expedition to Caddo Lake he focused mainly on the color scheme of the autumn cypress during the dawn hours while taking wildlife photos here and there.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns
Photo by Mark Burns

LEAP Ambassadors were able to converse with the accomplished photographer and expand their knowledge of composition, lighting, and color scheme in photography.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

Being amateur photographers, we benefit from the knowledge he provides–even if it isn’t evident in our own photos!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Caddo Lake

And as we saw the beautiful landscapes of the lake and the graceful wildlife, we set these newly learned skills into practice.

Starr Home, By Ryan Knesek

After meeting with Mark Burns in Uncertain, Texas, Leap Ambassadors found themselves in the city of Marshall. There, Ambassadors toured the historic Starr Family House, a Victorian-style home that was built with the money from the Starr’s land possessions.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

Dr. James Harper Star was commissioned as president of the board of land commissioners and receiver of the land dues for Nacogdoches County by Sam Houston in 1837. The tour showcased refurbished wood flooring and antiques that were unique to the home. Art, woodworking, and portraits illustrated the family’s status when the Starrs had guests at home. Now, years after the owners’ lifetime, their elegant lifestyle is still admired.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

Among the most interesting aspects of the home were all its artifacts. Ambassador Makayla and I were even allowed to use one of these artifacts, the stereograph.  This contraption functioned as early 3-dimensional glasses for photography and was the first time that Makayla and I had used now.

As one would imagine, the home showed portals into the past through its architecture and artifacts.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

One interesting aspect of history while touring the home was Dr. Starr’s relationship with Sam Houston. Apparently, Dr. Starr owned land close to land owned by Sam Houston in Nacogdoches. However, land disputes arose while they were neighbors and Dr. Starr tired to sue the celebrated revolutionary war hero. Although this part of the home’s history didn’t show the most amiable side of the family, through touring the home the LEAP Ambassadors were able to expand their knowledge of the town of Marshall and its connection to Sam Houston.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Starr Historical Home, Marshall TX

Lunch at R & R Bakery, by Christina Perez

After the LEAP Ambassadors finished their tour of the Starr Family Home tour, we headed to lunch. We arrived in historic downtown Marshall, Texas…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Harrison County Courthouse

and pulled into R & R Bakery and Coffee Shop. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by friendly staff and sat down ready to enjoy our meal. As we waited on Sierra and Sarah to arrive we shared our favorite things about the sunrise tour.  We discussed the birds, the colors of the trees, and our favorite part of the tour.  Ryan got the South Western roast beef sandwich with jalapeño bread and a garden salad on the side and lets just say he enjoyed his meal, clearly evidenced by a clean plate a few minutes after his order arrived. After lunch we shared some desserts, apple cinnamon scones for some and choclate chip cookies for others. It was a sweet way to enjoy the afternoon.

Michelson Museum of Art, By Makayla Mason

With such a filling lunch, we decided to walk it off with a small shopping session through town. Our wallets turned to the various antique shops along N. Washington Ave. And even though we could have spent longer at the shops, we made our way to the Michelson Museum of Art.

Opened in May 1985, the museum houses hundreds of pieces of art by artist Leo Michelson. The museum was founded following a donation from Leo Michelson’s widow. The donation consisted of more than 1,000 of Michelson’s art pieces.

Today, the museum consists of Michelson’s work, as well as works from locally and nationally recognized artists. The traveling exhibit that was currently at the museum was of illustrator Marla Frazee.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

Frazee has illustrated several well-known children’s books such as The Boss Baby, Clementine, Stars, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever and even one of my favorite book series, The Borrowers.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

The Ambassadors enjoyed looking through books they remembered reading when they were younger and appreciated the detailed illustrations.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

The other exhibit at the museum was “Our Artists and their Selfies.”

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

This exhibit contained thirteen artists with pieces of their work paired with their self-portrait and a list of highly-recognized art museums that feature each artist.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art

One of the thirteen artists was Henri Matisse, a name familiar to the LEAP Ambassadors, so we decided to take a selfie!

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Michelson Museum of Art, Henri Matisse

But from indoor art…we went back to the natural art of Caddo Lake. Sunset and sunrise lighting conditions are far from the same. That is why it was important for Mark Burns to return to the lake during the late afternoon. Swaying in the tranquil waters of the lake, Mr. Burns continued to look for that perfect spot to photograph.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

During his National Parks Project, he spent five years visiting and revisiting parks. This search, as you can tell, is continuous and ever changing. Even though we had been here over the summer, the lake is not under the same conditions as before.

“Water levels have fallen by three feet,” Wes, our captain and tour guide, told us.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

This affects the composition of Mr. Burns’s photos since cypress roots are more visible. Of course the most prominent change is the fall colors in the foliage of the cypress trees.  This is such an important trait of the lake since it changes the format in which Mr. Burns takes his photos.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns

Now that the fall colors are so rich, Burns sought the right light for the perfect color.

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Caddo Lake, Mark Burns
Photo by Mark Burns

Tomorrow will be our last chance, for now, to get the last few shots of the lake. As we returned to Marshall for dinner we reminisced on the day’s success. We even got to see a few of the photos that Mr. Burns had taken through out the day. With excitement in our step and a show of confidence…

SHSU, LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP Center, Marshall TX, Harrison County Courthouse

…we returned to the hotel welcoming tomorrow’s adventures.

Houston’s Arts & Parks–Arts Edition!

Moody Gallery, By Bianca Saliderna

Following a vigorous morning at the park, we headed to one of the more than 60 art galleries in the Houston area, the Moody Art Gallery, where a special tour waited for us. As we took our first step into the gallery, Betty Moody, the owner of the gallery, was quick to give us a warm welcome to her very special art venue.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

As the tour began, we learned that approximately 42 years ago Ms. Moody and her husband, Bill Steffy, embarked on a journey when they decided to acquire a property and open their very own art gallery. Over the decades of dealing art for accomplished artists, she has built a good reputation and now deals artworks by Arthur Turner, Jim Love, Terry Allen, Mary McCleary, and Luis Jimenez, to name just a few.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Luis Jimenez

Her knowledge and passion have led her to not choose art because of a simple trend, but to choose it because of the meaning and the story behind the piece.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

Through viewing some of the most attention-grabbing art in her collection, we discovered that each person interpreted each piece differently and that, although dissimilar, they could all be representations intended by the artist.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Mary McCleary

One of the pieces that Ms. Moody focused on was Snow Vanitas, a mixed media collage by the local artist Mary McCleary. From a distance, it seemed like a simple piece, however, the illusions created by different elements including plastic, paint, wire, and wood, created a stunning result. Additionally, each of her three-dimensional collages have a story to tell and are created to leave an impact.

It was a learning experience in every way.  We learned archiving methods…

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

…strategies for displaying art pieces…

…the stories behind unusual art…

…and even how to use a rolodex!

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts
To continue with our learning adventure, Betty Moody gave us a tour of her own home, located a wall behind the art gallery.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

There, she showed us some of her most precious and sentimental pieces she owns.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

Decorated with Pre-Colombian art as well as modern pieces by Randy Twaddle, Robert Rauschenberg, Luis Jimenez, and the like, the room was a beautiful embodiment of art. Embedded in her book shelves were not only a trove of books, but also a Campbell’s Soup can signed by Andy Warhol!

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Andy Warhol

We also had the chance to see a Picasso on her kitchen shelf!

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Picasso

Ms. Moody’s home could easily be used as an art museum.

Although we are certain that these were highly valuable to Ms. Moody, without a doubt her most treasured objects where Bill Steffy’s visually attractive works. As a sculptor and jeweler, he incorporated silver and materials like turquoise to give each piece a unique appearance. Surprisingly enough, what appeared to be a bird sculpture, was a jewelry box, which with the click of a button released a stunning pendant from its wing.  It was one of our favorite pieces in the entire collection.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Bill Steffy
Photo from Houston Chronicle

There is no doubt varied talents are well exhibited at the Moody Art Gallery. Betty Moody gave us an unforgettable tour that went beyond our expectations.

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts

The LEAP Ambassadors will treasure this unprecedented experience.

ecious and sentimental pieces she owns.

Thanks to Ms. Moody’s intimate relationship with art and her generosity in sharing, we experienced a semester’s worth of art learning in one afternoon–while spending time with a delightful business owner and lady!

Betty Moody, Moody Art Gallery, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics, Houston Arts, Helen Altman