LEAPsters Know Anish Kapoor

Houston recently acquired “Cloud Column,” which is also called “The Upright Bean.”  It’s a work of art by Anish Kapoor, whose most famous work is the “Bean” (formally called “Cloud Gate”) in Chicago.  Houston’s acquisition of this work has spurred a heated exchange between Houston and Chicago.  In this exchange, a Chicago writer called Houston a “cultural abyss” and a  Houston writer referred to Chicago as a “has-bean.”

While we’ll leave it to others to argue about the merits of Kapoor’s various works, we keep visiting them when we get a chance!  Our first chance was at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, where works by Claes Oldeburg, Louise Bourgeois, and Jesus Moroles overshadowed a smaller Kapoor piece.  But that wasn’t the case in Chicago, where the famous bean caught the students’ attention.

And, of course, with the “Cloud Column” in Houston, we have new opportunities to explore Kapoor’s art, such as when Christina Perez visited…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Art, Anish Kapoor, Cloud Column, Houston

…or when Karla Rosales visited a few days later.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Art, Anish Kapoor, Cloud Column, Houston

More or less simultaneously, separate LEAPsters were in Phoenix checking out Kapoor’s “Upside Down, Inside Out.”  Unlike most of his work since 1995, this piece isn’t stainless steel, but it is reflective and curved, distorting space and perception.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Art, Anish Kapoor, Phoenix, Upside Down Inside Out

We’re not sure which of the ones we’ve seen are the best, but we are sure we are pleased to have one close to home!

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Our Kind of Town–Chicago

On our Sunday Chicago adventure, the LEAP Ambassadors continued on the path of artistic enlightenment by visiting the Chicago Institute of Art and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie Home. This as part of our Vagabond Research Trip which would lead us our first meeting with New York Times bestseller author Jeff Guinn, which we would soon meet with in Dearborn, Michigan. However, to shake off our morning drowsiness we climbed up Willis Tower to hover over Chicago in the skyscraper’s Skydeck.


Willis Tower Skydeck–by Brian Aldaco

Upon entrance of the tower, with grounded pillars exposed so as to view the building’s essential elements to its prominent stature, we  joined the crowed who anxiously await the hundred-and-three-story ascent to the glass viewing enclosure. Huddled inside the elevator we arrived at our floor of destination after a minute long ride (the same climb which takes ninety seconds to complete during windy weather). At the top of the 1,730 ft building, a size comparable to 283 vertical Barack Obamas, the view of the Windy City was breathtaking.

Willis Tower, Skydeck
Chicago Skyline from Skydeck at Willis Tower

Whether this was caused by the vista from the clouds or the vertigo of being on their level, our hearts were firmly set on forcing our bodies to step over the ledge onto the clear-glass viewing deck. Suspended over the city, with feet seemingly floating over the ground, sweaty palms, and throbbing heads nervous about the deck’s ability to keep us safely enclosed…

The LEAP Guys on the Skydeck
The LEAP Guys on the Skydeck

…Professor Yawn wisely suggested that we create a photo-op by jumping upon the skydeck.  This turned out to be more fun than dangerous, but ultimately futile as a photo-op because the skydeck photographers couldn’t time the photos correctly.


Art Institute of Chicago, by Brian Aldaco and Paul Oliver

Having experienced our elevated adventure, our next stop was the Art Institute of Chicago; a sprawling, labyrinthine art museum that contained art from a myraid of different cultures and ages.

Art Institute of Chicago
Paul Plans his Route in the Art Institute of Chicago

We had the opportunity to see several famous pieces, such as Grant Wood’s American Gothic…

Grant Wood, American Gothic, Art Institute of Chicago
American Gothic, by Grant Wood

Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, and of course, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

 After viewing Nighthawks together…

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…we went our separate ways. Paul traveled back in time to Ancient Greece and Rome, looking at the Roman statuary, Greek pottery, and Byzantine pieces on display. Of special note in this section was a Roman reproduction of the Aphrodite of Knidos. The original Aphrodite was a Greek statue, and it was contentious in its time, for it was the first instance of a goddess being depicted in the nude. Also of interest were the Greek amphoras, kylixes, and other pottery pieces. The amphora is a larger container that presents a larger space for the artist, whereas the kylix is a smaller, but broad object, that was used as a wine goblet. The amount of wine that could be held by a kylix looks substantial, but the Greeks believed it to be a mark of the barbarian to drink wine unmixed. Therefore, they would add water to it, which perhaps justifies the size of the kylixes. The pottery itself takes two styles generally; black figure and red figure. The color refers to what hue the people depicted are, so on a black figure amphora, the heroes or gods represented are black, and the background is red. The reverse is true for a red figure work. Paul also went to see the Medieval Arms & Armor section, but unfortunately it was not open yet!

Simultaneously on the Modern Wing of the museum, Professor Yawn, Brian Aldaco, and Ryan Brim viewed multiple works from artists of diverse periods in art history. The turn of 20th century was captured by works of artists such as Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and James Whistler, the latter of whom helped usher in impressionism in the United States.

James Whistler's Nocturne, Art Institute of Chicago
James Whistler’s “Nocturne–Blue and Gold”

In further floors we also viewed works from Great Depression artists such as Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and Edward Hopper whose desire to capture everyday rural and urban American life was astonishing. We also attempted to study the abstractions and surrealism behind the works of Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte, and Pablo Picasso.

Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, Art Institute of Chicago
Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”

To further strain our left analytic hemisphere, we viewed the works of conceptual artists such as Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and other contemporary artists.

Jackson Pollock, Number 17A, Art Institute of Chicago
Jackson Pollock’s “Number 17A”

Millennium Park, by Brian Aldaco

Having completed our journey through a century’s worth of art, we joined the pedestrian throng towards Millennium Park. As we passed Jaume Plensa’s Crowne Fountain, where happy children frolicked under the spewing gush of water (which shot from the mouths of the fountain’s face-depicting pillars); its refreshing spray was welcoming against the city’s heat. Going along the park we found its signature Cloud Gate sculpture, most commonly known as “The Bean.” With its mirror image of the surrounding skyline which warped as the rounded angles revolved around the sculpture, we neared it’s metal surface and seemingly became part of the picturesque vista. Soon after taking a couple of pictures of us LEAPing by the sculpture…

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…we ordered a Chicago-style hotdog at a nearby stand. Thus, we lunched in true Chicago style over the city’s patrimonial treasure.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s “The Robie House,” by Ryan Brim

After some the authentic Chicago-style hot dogs in Millennium Park, we headed over to the campus of the University of Chicago, where we toured the Robie House, built by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909. Like many of his other homes, Wright built the prairie style house by accentuating long horizontal lines to draw one’s eye across the house.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House, Chicago, Prairie Style
Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Robie House”

Before we entered the front door, we were met with a low ceiling that was similar in height and in material to the one just inside the greeting area. This created a sort of transition space that allows a guest to have a seamless transition between the outside and inside. Once we went up the stairs to the main living area and dining area, the ceiling became taller, and the room brighter. This is another one of his techniques called “compress and release,” forcing people out of the dimly-lit greeting area and into the bright living space. Although there are no doors separating the dining and living areas, there is a fireplace that breaks up the two spaces.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House
Living Area in “The Robie House”

Mr. Wright believed that there should be as few enclosed rooms in a house as possible, so he made an opening at the top of the fireplace so that someone in one room could see the continuing ceiling across the whole floor. He did this by diverting the smoke into two separate chimneys, leaving the middle open from obstruction. There were also many windows and French doors all along the room connecting the exterior with the interior and making the room seem much bigger. In the dining area, there would have been a dining table with pillars as legs extending above its surface on which one could set lights. Similarly the table was fashioned with high backed chairs, so when people would eat dinner together there they would have sufficient lighting and the high chairs made the table seem to be a space within a space. On the third level were the bedrooms and bathrooms, each with natural lighting from many windows. The servants quarters and kitchen were on the second level, keeping them level with the rest of the family for according to Wright’s philosophy everyone was of equal worth. Just above the servant’s quarters was the car garage where the gift shop is today.


Moving On

After leaving the beautiful home, we made our way through Illinois and Indiana to finally reach Michigan. Somewhere along the state in need of a place to switch drivers and stretch our legs, we stopped at Coloma, Michigan, to go to the Chocolate Garden. The small business which specializes in chocolate truffles, according to one of the ladies working there, was started in 1998 as an online business. The eventual physical location was built in an old barn, but quickly expanded. Notably, the Chocolate Garden has been featured on the Food Network, which helped propel it to fame.

In addition to the Chocolate Garden’s wide assortment in chlorate truffles, it also has a “tasting bar.”

Chocolate Garden's Truffles at the Tasting Bar
Chocolate Garden’s Truffles at the Tasting Bar

It is here where for a small fee it is possible to taste up to three different types of these truffles of chocolatey delight. Professor Yawn lamented that the LEAP ladies were not along on this trip, as they surely would have enjoyed this stop. With this in mind, we joyously sampled the rich, delectable chocolate truffles. The “Darkest Dark” truffle and the “Vanilla Rose” were both exceptionally scrumptious. It was truly a must-stop for any chocolate aficionado and a tragedy that the ladies were not with us.

As we left, Professor Yawn, in a seemingly magnanimous gesture, proffered us a truffle he had purchased. Brian and Paul both took the sample from him and enjoyed the chocolate taste for a brief second.  As it turned out, though, the truffle was a “Cayenne Kick,” which packed a nasty spice that only becomes apparent after a few seconds. Needless to say, Professor Yawn got a kick out of our reactions.

After our sweet treat we continued on our trip where we eventually entered Dearborn ready to soothe our growling stomachs at Rex’s Golden Grill. With a diner menu of fish and chips and burgers, we were very much satisfied with the evening’s repast. It was so that we finished our Sunday evening in Dearborn, ready to start our first day of Vagabond research early in the morning.

Midwest Tour, Day 4: Our Kind of Town, Chicago

We began our morning with a trip to the village of Homewood, Illinois to check out their Richard Haas murals.  Although Huntsville boasts the largest collection of his murals (14), we were excited to find 13 murals that call Homewood home. Arriving in the quaint village, we parked and excitedly began our scavenger hunt for the elusive, illusive murals.

The first we found clung to the wall of a florist’s shop, a greenhouse to accompany the business’ theme.

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Moving on, we came across a theater, paying homage to the original theater and marquee formerly found in Homewood.

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Interestingly, the theater’s “Coming Attractions” involve at least one film involving Chicago, “Some Like it Hot,” which the LEAP Center used as its centerpiece for our Marilyn Monroe Film Festival.

Walking down the historic Dixie Highway, which connected the US Midwest with the South, we came across even more murals–one in recognition of the ever-present Midwestern prairie alongside the Dixie Highway…

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…one depicting dancers (on the side of a dance studio, no less),

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and finally, an extensive mural on the history of the bicycle.

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With the hunt for his thirteen murals complete, we hopped in the car to commute to downtown Chicago.

Parking was a challenge, but we found a central location. We ventured into the very busy Chicago streets and made our way to Millennium Park, where the very famous public sculpture “Cloud Gate” (a.k.a., “The Bean”) is located.

Constance had visited Chicago and “The Bean” last year, and she guided us through the crowded crosswalks that astounded Alex, thankful to not be wandering aimlessly alone. The crowd of Chicago pedestrians thinned out around Millennium Park, and we were met by a new crowd of tourists at “Cloud Gate” (Anish Jay Kapoor), where we actually fit right in. We explored the sculpture, and snapped a number of pictures before Professor Yawn and Stephanie met us there. Alex even had the chance to participate in a picture series photographer Susan May Moody is working on titled, “Jumping at The Bean.”

She wasn’t the only one in the series.  Others also jumped for joy.

After taking more pictures than we’ll ever use, including one with sculptures by Jaume Plensa

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…we made our way down to the Chicago Architecture Foundation shop. We were welcomed by souvenirs of an architect with whom we are all familiar, Frank Lloyd Wright–as well as an intriguing model of Chicago.

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Circumventing busy professionals and tourists alike, we lunched at Russian Tea Time. Our first time trying Russian fare proved to be a bit overwhelming initially, by all the menu items offered, but we were excited to dig in to our appetizers, stuffed mushroom…

Russian_Stuffed_Mushrooms_Web…and Russian Dumplings…

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…and our shared Chicken Duran Schnitzel entrée.

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The food was wonderful. We look forward to the opportunity of comparing the Russian schnitzel with the Austrian variety we will try at Grunauer’s in Kansas City in a few days.

Stuffed, we walked off a bit of our lunch en route to the Chicago Institute of Art.

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Constance was excited about her return trip through the extensive exhibits, she was most excited to view Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” which was on loan during the LEAP Center trip to the Film and History Conference last year. Alex, on the other hand, reported being overwhelmed upon entering the vast lobby of the 122-year-old building originally built to house the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

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With no time to see all the works, and with exhibits separated by style, we began in pre-1900 American art, perusing Tiffany lamps…

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sculptures and paintings alike by Frederick Remington, and quite a few works by John Singer Sargent. We focused next on American art post-1900, where we encountered several works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,”

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Wood’s “American Gothic,”

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and a new favorite artist, James McNeill Whistler, famous for many works, especially “Nocturne: Blue and Gold-Southampton Water,” a beautiful piece in subdued colors and plentiful shadows highlighting a moonlit night. Alex’s favorite was Monet’s “Stacks of Wheat.”

Next, we headed to the much-anticipated Impressionist exhibit to find Renoir, Degas, and Monet.

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We were awed, overwhelmed by the immensity of the exhibit along with the magnificence of its various artists. Just being in the same room as so many notable artist’s works was like a dream. To commemorate we took a few photos with one of the most famous works, Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

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We also saw Vincent Van Gogh’s famous self portrait.

CAI_Van_Gogh_Self_Portrait_WebIt was also a chance to make connections to other things we’ve seen and done.  The Museum, for example, had a statue of Abraham Lincoln by David French, whose also did the statue for the Lincoln Monument, a replica of which also graces Lincoln’s Tomb.

CAI_French_Lincoln_WebThere was also a sculpture of James Fraser’s “End of the Trail,” the larger version of which Constance had seen on her first LEAP Center trip to Oklahoma City.

CAI_End_Of_Trail_Fraser_WebFinally, we also had the chance to view an expansive exhibit of sketches, paintings, and even sculpture by Edgar Degas, famous for his dancers.  Both of us have seen his house in New Orleans, on separate LEAP Trips.

To finish our musings, we scouted the Modern art section, part of which, much to our dismay, was closed for construction. Deterred not, we explored the farthest exhibit from the entrance in search of pieces by Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso. With little time left for wandering, we took photos with a few renowned art pieces, such as Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist.”

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Alex, new to Dali and Matisse, commented on the distinction their art holds in the easily recognizable themes in their pieces.

But we also discovered other artists with whom we weren’t familiar (but  researched and found to be quite famous!), such as Lyonel Feininger…

CAI_Fenninger_Harbor_Web…Thomas Cole…

CAI_Thomas_Cole_Web…and Childe Hassam…

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We left the museum, awed by the history we had encountered and encouraged by the inferences we can begin to make as our repertoire of art knowledge grows.

With the sun setting, we began a brisk walk towards our anticipated yet unnerving next destination, Willis Tower. Built in 1973, the 108-story building rose above us, almost as if to gloat in its terrifying height. We bought our tickets, entered the elevator, and began ascending to the Skydeck at a whopping 17 miles per hour (or 24 feet per second), finally reaching the top, 1,353 feet high.

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At the top, we encountered 360-degree views of the Chicago skyline at sunset.

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It was completely worth the frightening elevator ride. Mustering much more courage, we even had the chance to stand on a clear floor 1300 feet up in the sky, which was beyond our comfort zone.  With that behind us, we had an impulse to leave, but we stayed, continuing to document Chicago’s descent into night.

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After the adventurous and phobia-induced experience at the Willis Tower, we taxied to Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Constance_Alex_Loyola_Law_School_Webto meet with former Junior Fellows President, Daniel North – a reunion of sorts for Professor Yawn and Stephanie, and an introduction for us. Daniel showed us the equivalent to the LSC Ballroom at SHSU, where we sat while Daniel described his life at law school along with his plans after graduation, answering our questions about law school, and reminiscing about his time at SHSU and as a member of the Junior Fellows.

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Daniel also showed us the courtroom where the Loyola Moot Court teams argue, and the Loyola law library, where we can expect to spend numerous hours in study. It was another connection for Alex, who recently spent time at UNT and TTU Law School Courtrooms as part of her Moot Court Experience.

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We also attended a Professional Responsibility class session with Daniel and his classmates. We sat in the back row of the class where we could see all the students prepared for class with their laptops, water bottles and books. Professor Grogan was passionate about what he was teaching and incorporated many previous cases which he has encountered (or taken an active role in) to help students understand the material.

Professor Grogan made the class exciting and kept his students engaged by incorporating humor. The main topics of discussion during the class were contingency, ethics, fraud, and a brief note on veterans, which quickly captured Constance’s attention. The hour and forty-five minute class flew by because of the interesting material and discussion.

It was an amazing experience for us, and we were very grateful to Daniel and Loyola Law for giving us this opportunity.

Daniel continued discussing his law school experience while we walked to Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria for dinner. After splitting a couple of small appetizers…

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we shared a “classic” Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, filled with cheese and topped with a layer of sausage. Daniel suggested that one slice would be enough, and one slice was definitely enough for most of us!

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After such a filling dinner, we hoofed it for about a mile and a half across Chicago, checking out the beautiful architecture and river scenes.

Constance_Alex_Chicago_River_Selfie_WebOne such photograph we specifically took for Austin Campbell…

Chicago_River_Trump_Tower_Web…who, for reasons unknown, is obsessed with Donald Trump.

Getting in past midnight, and leaving Chicago at 6am, we returned to our hotel, with a busy and bustling day to reflect on as we descended into sleep.