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.