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



Horsing Around in Kentucky

July 10, 2016

On our second day in Lexington, Kentucky for the Southern Legislative Conference we ventured out into the countryside. Amidst the green fields where Thoroughbreds grazed and galloped, there stood the Blue Grass Sportsmen’s League. Here, the LEAPsters were introduced to the unique sport of skeet shooting. Although most of us had already handled firearms before, never had we shot at moving clay targets shouldering a 20-gauge shotgun.

Skeet Shooting

After a safety briefing on the proper way to handle a gun and other expectations while out at the range, we headed towards the fields, all geared up with eye and ear protection. As we neared our station, the firing instructor kindly greeted us and demonstrated our “duck’s” path of flight, to prepare us on how to direct the movement of our firearm. Positioning ourselves at the station’s front, facing the field, hovering a right index finger over the trigger, eyes sighting over the barrel, calming our breath, keeping our arms sturdy and relaxed, checking our positioning to hold the butt of the stock close to our shoulder, we stood ready to call the clay’s pull. (This is work.)


After giving the mark, the orange disk would take flight, hurrying through the field resembling an escaping bird. After hearing a bang and seeing a smoking barrel, our hopes were that the projectiles would meet the clay target. However, more often than not the disk would fly pristine of any shattering and would only break as it landed on a tree or onto the ground, never having been grazed by our ammunition.


As we attempted, failed, and triumphed at hitting our “sim” ducks, our instructor took note of our gun handling and offered much-needed advice on how to successfully fire the shotgun.


Moving through every station with clay disks flying from left to right, from bottom of the field into the sky (forcing us to point our firearm at a 60 degree angle), to rolling on the ground, the number one rule was to direct the barrel with our left hand while following the target’s path.


Doing this would enable us to keep a more stable firearm, ensure that we properly sight the barrel with the target, and keep a more relaxed posture, all major contributors to skeet shooting success.


After firing the various wooden stock, single-action pump shotguns; synthetic stock, semiautomatic shotguns; and the classic over-under, break-action shotguns at the range, we celebrated our marksmanship experiences over a lunch of fried chicken and bread pudding. With beaten shoulders bearing red marks and bruises, some more severe than others, we boarded the bus back to the Lexington Convention Center to prepare for our next treat – a picnic break with some special guests at nearby Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park in Jessamine County, Kentucky.

My Old Kentucky Road Trip–A Conversation With Cameron Ludwick and Blair Hess


In April we began reading My Old Kentucky Road Trip by Cameron M. Ludwick and Blair Thomas Hess to prepare for our own road trip to the Blue Grass State! From this book, we learned much about Kentucky, and we used the book as a guide to our time in The Bluegrass State.  Amazingly, the authors agreed to meet with us while we were in Kentucky, and our meeting spot was historic Camp Nelson, a former trading post between the Confederates and the Union during the Civil War.


We were excited to meet the two young women who had helped guide us on our way through the state.  We began our picnic-style rendezvous with the exchange of gifts – evidence that both parties were from the South. Coincidentally, we bought each other Kentucky-famous Bourbon chocolates…


…but they outdid us in also bringing Ale8, the official Kentucky soda. After a round of introductions, we proceeded to enjoy a fun afternoon filled with history, laughter, and most importantly, mentorship.


Did you know that Rabbit Hash, Kentucky (yes, that’s correct) has a dog for a mayor? Neither did we, at least not before reading about it in My Old Kentucky Road Trip.


Luckily, these Kentucky experts filled us in on fascinating facts that make Kentucky interesting and unique – and made us want to explore Kentucky even more.


One interesting place we discussed is in Louisville, the Waverly Hill Sanatorium. Waverly Hill is a former hospital for tuberculosis patients that was virtually a city unto itself, turned into a nursing home after the tuberculosis epidemic. Now, one can join a haunted historic tour (at night!). Testimonials have noted that it is the scariest yet most informative tour in the state.

The conversation throughout the afternoon was humorous and interesting. Blair and Cameron had a special way of telling stories. We clung to every word they said because they made us feel as if we had taken trips with them because of all the details they relayed in their book. We were thankful for the time they took to meet with us and share their experiences and encouragement.


A story can be a powerful tool. This pair has used their Kentucky road trip storytelling and insight to rebrand their beautiful state. We can hope – and practice – to write similarly: inspiring, and full of new experiences and opportunities.


Horsing Around in Kentucky

The last evening activity planned for this day (Sunday, July 10) was Family Night at the Kentucky Horse Park, “a working horse farm and an educational theme park.”


In true “Kentucky Derby” fashion, an enthusiastic trumpeter announced our arrival. We were directed immediately to the food, where we found authentic Kentucky fare like brisket, burgers and corn on the cob.


We were lucky to have enjoyed dinner at a table with Mrs. Leslie Hafner, currently Senior Advisor to the Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, and her husband – who has a political science degree! We had a pleasant conversation and discussed many current issues in government. Mrs. Haslam described her various job duties as a senior advisor to the Governor of Tennessee. She noted the favorite part of her job is being able to not just hear constituent’s concerns but to truly find solutions to be able to assist them.

 We also enjoyed telling the Hafners our favorite parts about our trip to SLC, some of which was directly through their home state, Tennessee, and we even shared some info about our organization, and our blogs, at which they insisted they look. (We were all excited about this since we put in quite a bit of effort!). After dinner with our pleasant company, we headed for the dessert table to sample ice cream and shaved ice. We all grabbed some dessert and began looking for the horse riding area. Sadly, when we arrived at the location of the horse rides it was too late to ride horses, so instead we took a few pictures and headed for the horse museum.


Located in the Kentucky Horse Park, the museum had various exhibits, including a timeline of the horse, breeds of the world, and horses in sports. Some of our favorite artifacts were the old carriages and the jockey memorabilia.


Bryan and Ryan even took the opportunity to continue playing the part they had started the previous night at Keeneland by dressing up in jockey gear.


We learned much about a variety of horse breeds from all over the world before running to catch the bus back to the hotel. Although our visit to the museum was short, we enjoyed learning more about Kentucky’s largest industry!


 After an entire day spent out, we were all ready for some rest, but not before we had a small birthday surprise for Beatriz! She turned 19 today and we (thanks to Professor Yawn) had a surprise “party” for the birthday girl. We all gathered to eat cookies from a unique place called Insomnia Cookies that just happens to deliver freshly baked cookies until 3:00am! We enjoyed ice cream and cookies and looked at the photos from the prior day before calling it another great day and heading to bed.



The LEAP Ambassadors just finished a five-day trip to Arkansas, but they arrived home in time for LEAP Day.  Not many organizations have a day named for them, but the LEAP Ambassadors treated it in appropriate fashion:


It was a picnic dinner at one of their favorite places: the Wynne Home.  This also happens to be the workplace of Beatriz Martinez and the former workplace of Megan Chapa.  Next door, the Smither Martin Law Firm (seen in the background) is the workplace of Kaitlyn Tyra.

With full employment, a grilled dinner by Austin Campbell, and a day named for them, they celebrated.

Of course, they can keep calm and carry on, when need be, and tomorrow they will return to their professional ways, with four of them working the elections and then gathering for a watch party.


Art and SHSU: Lee Jamison Exhibit

Lee Jamison has hosted an exhibit of his art in the LSC Art Gallery for at least the last three years.  And while the years and the exhibit theme may change, the art remains wonderful.

This year’s exhibit was titled “The Main Thing,” a nod to the Old Main Building that served as the University’s focal (but not geographic) centerpiece for almost 100 years, before burning in 1982.

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In addition, the gallery featured some fifteen other pieces, several of which featured local landmarks: e.g., the Byrd Unit, Austin Hall, Cafe Texan.

The exhibit was up for two weeks, but the reception was last night, the penultimate day of the showing.  About 50 people attended the reception, and several prints of The Old Main painting were purchased, including Mr. Jamison’s first-ever sale to a student (thank you Jasmine Moss!).

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The prices of the pieces ranged from prints for $80 (Austin Hall) and $120 (Old Main) to originals that started at $275 and up, with most being less than $1,000.

Jamison’s work is shown at the William Reaves gallery in Houston, and can also be seen at various sites across Texas–the Driskill Hotel, the Darrell K. Royal Stadium, the River Oakls Country Club, the Mayborn Museum Complex at Baylor, and many other sites.  But the favorites around here tend to be the local sites, Old Main, Austin Hall, and the Wynne Home.

Megan_Jasmine_Wynne_Home_Painting_WebThe LSC Art Gallery can be reserved by contacting Gayle Bullard at 294-1760.


LEAP Center Celebrates Sam Houston’s Birthday in Austin


LEAP Center students spent a fun-filled, celebratory evening in Austin, Texas, honoring the Lone Star state’s most famous figure: Sam Houston.  Every other year, the SHSU Alumni Association sponsors a celebration of Sam Houston’s birthday at the Bob Bullock Museum.  The event draws University staff, University alumni, Regents and Administrators from Texas State University System, legislators, legislative staff, executive office officials, and many elected officials.


For the LEAP Center, it meant getting all of the Sam Houston Austin Internship Program (SHAIP) students involved, along with bringing LEAP Center students to assist the Alumni Association with working the event.

There are eight students in the Austin Internship Program, working for Representative John Otto, Senator Charles Schwertner, Representative Ron Simmons, Representative Carol Alvarado, Representative Todd Hunter, Representative Armando Martinez, Representative Will Metcalf, and Representative Senfronia Thompson.  All eight of the interns attended the event, with President Gibson highlighting their contributions during her speech.


For the LEAP Center students, it meant doing additional volunteer work–part of the Center’s mission–and having the chance to network.  The networking included talking to SHAIP Interns, SHSU Alumni, TSUS Staff and former Regents, Legislative Staff, and, of course, the President of the University.


It was, according to the consensus, the most fun event of the year, and it was also probably the most rewarding.  Many thanks to Charlie Vienne and Casey Hughes for inviting LEAP Center students!


LEAP Center’s Midwestern Tour (Day Three): Chicago and All That Jazz

Millennium Park
Millennium Park

We fueled up on a hearty breakfast before making our way down into the Windy City for day three of our whirlwind trip. We got an honest look at the Chicago way of driving – which seemed to be like a life-or-death situation. Between the locals’ blaring horns and ignoring driving lanes, we were pleasantly surprised to make it to a parking garage in one place.

Our first big goal for the day was to check out Millennium Park. Like its name hints, Millennium Park was planned and subsequently built to celebrate the beginning of a new millennium. Ironically enough, it was not completed until four years later, in 2004. Sitting atop a parking garage and commuter rail station, this park also is considered to be the world’s largest rooftop garden.

Although the biggest attraction at Millennium is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, home to many performing arts events, we hurriedly passed it in pursuit of the notorious, locally-nicknamed Chicago “Bean.”

The Bean at Millennium Park
The Bean at Millennium Park

The three-story sculpture is aptly named Cloud Gate and was designed by Anish Kapoor. Interestingly, it was also incomplete when Millennium Park was unveiled and subsequently was kept covered until it was finished in 2006. The “Bean” provided multiple picture-taking opportunities in its reflective, steel, seamless shape. We happily indulged our “selfie” guilty pleasure, much to Professor Yawn’s chagrin.

Bean_SelfiesHeading out of Millennium Park in search of our next stop, we came upon Crown Fountain. Confused by the faces on these fifty-foot tall towers, we did not know what to make of such public art. Upon further research, we found that fountains located in the subject’s mouths spray water on unsuspecting passersby, May through October. Although contentions were raised originally over the height of the art pieces completed by Jaume Plensa, they have been accepted by the city and display almost 1,000 Chicagoan’s faces every year.

We left the fun and information Millennium Park for our next destination: a Chicago Architecture Foundation Boat Tour. The weather proved to be a barrier, it was a brisk 47 degrees and windy on the top of the boat. However, the tour guide made the cold bearable with her vast knowledge of Chicago architecture.

We started the tour by viewing different types of buildings in various architectural styles. We saw several different styles of architecture such as Neoclassic, Modern and Post-modern.

Post-Modernism in Chicago
Post-Modernism in Chicago

However, we found one of the most interesting to be the Beaux-Arts style. Prominent from 1880-1920, and considered neoclassical architecture, the Beaux-Arts style has several prominent characteristics that set it apart from other architectural styles such as flat roofs, rusticated and raised first floors, arched windows and doors, and a magnitude of themed sculptures, artwork and murals.

Beaux_Arts_ChicagoThe tour really allowed us to learn about different styles of architecture by seeing the buildings firsthand while listening to the stories behind the buildings and their architects. We traveled to a point from which we could see almost the entire skyline of Chicago. The view was unlike anything we had ever seen! Looking at the skyline really made us realize just how large Chicago is and how much work went into designing the buildings that make Chicago the great city it is.

Chicago_SkylineWe next headed to the Art Institute of Chicago. To remain on topic with Chicago’s architecture we learned about on the boat tour, the first exhibition we visited at the Institute was on Architecture and Design. There were numerous architectural fragments belonging to several famous architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Adler & Sullivan. One favorite piece, hanging from the ceiling, was Frank Lloyd Wright’s Triptych Window, a window panel composed of clear and colored glass, featuring a number of vertical and horizontal lines interspersed with circles and half circles, resembling balloons, and even an American flag shape.

Triptych_WindowThe Impressionism Collection was a hit as well. Impressionism is a style that captures scenes from everyday life, especially outdoors, just like a picture would do. Caillebotte’s “Paris Street; Rainy Day,” was enough of a favorite to inspire one of us to purchase a miniature.

Paris_Street_Rainy_Day_Gustave_CaillebotteThe oil painting is fairly large and features a typical rainy day in 19th century Paris, with a number of individuals walking the streets of Paris holding umbrellas. The focal point is a couple in the foreground, holding arms and sharing one umbrella. It depicted a scene relatable to today.

Another favorite was Georgia O’Keefe’s “Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses,” in the American Collection.

Georgia O'Keefe
Georgia O’Keefe

The painting features a cow’s skull on a white background with two Calico roses, one on the upper right side of the skull and the other directly under the chin. The story behind the painting captured our attention. As the narration indicated, O’Keefe drew inspiration from carcasses of animals that had suffered through a drought in the 1930s Southwest. She was fascinated by them, and said, “To me they are as beautiful as anything I know… The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the desert even tho’ it is vast and empty and untouchable.”

Just before closing, we admired the Modern Art Collection, featuring works of Picasso, Dali, and Matisse. A favorite was Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist,” from his Blue Period of the early 20th century. The painting is mostly blue in color, except for the brown guitar, but it is also blue in the sense that it reflects sadness and misery, although we managed a smile for the painting.


One additional highlight should be included.  While we were touring the galleries, we came upon a woman with an easel.  Turns out, she is a student at the Art Institute, and her assignment was to copy a painting of her choice.  The assignment’s purpose is to help the student to better learn the style of painting.  In this case, the student was learning a traditional style, and she was kind enough to go over with us how she was completing her painting.  Her mini-lesson just added to the educational experience!


Our experience at the Art Institute was unforgettable. The pieces of art we admired were true masterpieces, and the stories behind them were very interesting.


LEAP Center Midwestern Tour: Day One

Little Rock, Arkansas and More

Our week-long trip began with a flurry of motion. Loading up in Huntsville, we embarked on the winding nineteen-hour drive towards Madison, Wisconsin. From discussing the attractive qualities of smart phones to what attracts Sam Houston students to the activities Huntsville offers, we covered many topics along the way.

Stopping briefly in Jefferson, Texas to refuel, we took in the extravagant wood churches and red brick roads the small town boasts. Awed by wraparound porches and Victorian-style homes, we toured the town by car quickly enough to stay on track with our journey without missing much, and soon we were at the Arkansas border.

Constance, Silvia, Ariel, and Arkansas
Constance, Silvia, Ariel, and Arkansas

We also took the first of what would eventually be some 200,000 selfies.

Selfie Sisters
Selfie Sisters

We continued the drive through Texarkana and then on to Hope, Arkansas where we visited the childhood home of former President Bill Clinton.


Leaving all Hope behind, we meandered through Arkadelphia and Benton and on to Little Rock, Arkansas, where we stopped for dinner and some more sightseeing.

Priorities on food first, we strolled into Sonny Williams’ Steak Room, our bellies grumbling. We began our feast with a sausage and cheese platter that was mind-blowing – or so our starving stomachs thought. Trying three types of sausage (venison, pheasant, and rabbit), we were wowed by Chef Clay Sipes’ culinary skill and finesse. The beef tips and shrimp, coupled with not-so-ordinary garlic mashed potatoes and green beans, certainly hit the spot. Of all the food, the lamb chops with goat cheese may have been the best.

Lamb Chops at Sonny Williams
Lamb Chops at Sonny Williams

After indulging in dessert, we regrettably took leave of the memorable restaurant to explore all that we could in Little Rock.

Possibly, the best part of the entire day was the opportunity to allow our inner child to emerge while we explored the Riverwalk, played on different playgrounds, and walked through the sculpture garden. The brightly-lit bridges gave off a beautiful glow as we walked through the amphitheater and into the playground.

Junction Bridge
Junction Bridge

The pathways were landscaped and lined with trees and flowers. We guided ourselves through the History Pavilion and found a very welcome surprise on the other side: Peabody Park playground. With rope ladders, slides, and caves…

Silvia Chiapponi
Silvia Chiapponi

…it was, by far, one of the most interesting and fun parks we had ever been to.

Constance Gabel
Constance Gabel

While Peabody Park was fun, we didn’t stop our adventure there! On the path to the music park we came across the sculpture garden. The landscaping in the garden was beautiful, however, the real stars were the sculptures, lining the park and serving as centerpieces along the path. The sculptures ranged from women dancing to brilliantly-sculpted origami statues. As we walked through the garden to the music park, the sculptures became smaller and sparser until we reached our destination.

The music park was equally amazing. There were several large musical instruments – oversized bongos and xylophones – placed around the park that weren’t just art pieces – they could be played. We took turns creating various sounds, some beautiful, some not necessarily so.

Little Rock is famous for its Six Bridges over the Arkansas River that connect Little Rock to North Little Rock. After our playground and sculpture garden experience, we had the opportunity to visit two of the four pedestrian bridges on the Little Rock side.

First, we headed to the Junction Bridge, located in front of the River Market. At night, there’s a beautiful view over the Arkansas River, with the colorful bridge lights reflecting on the water.

Junction Bridge
Junction Bridge

Then, we headed to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Unfortunately, it was closed; nonetheless, we were able to admire its modern bridge-like structure. In fact, the Presidential Library was designed to look like a bridge to complement the Six Bridges, and to serve as a “bridge to the future.” In front of the Library is the Rock Island Bridge, also known as the Clinton Presidential Bridge.

Little Rock at Night
Little Rock at Night

Because we visited Little Rock on a breezy October night, our experience was peaceful and undisturbed, with no crowds. We encountered a few visitors along the way, some interesting characters, and some beautiful sights.

The Old Statehouse
The Old Statehouse

Our short stay in Little Rock was interesting and unique, and reflected the spirit of the LEAP Center.  And with that hopeful spirit, we headed on to Missouri deep into the night, awaiting the adventures of the next day in St. Louis.