The Leap Ambassadors started off the second day of their retreat by holding a productive refresher meeting that especially benefited those of us who are new to the position. We discussed etiquette, professionalism, and overall expectations for how to represent Sam Houston as best we can. After the meeting, we all agreed that it was lunch time.
Although it is a hidden gem, Andes Café is a must try when you are in Houston. It is a South American kitchen named after the Andes Mountains, because they unite Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. We were excited, as most of the Ambassadors had never eaten at a South American restaurant before. After we settled into our table, we ordered our drinks. A few of us were adventurous and ordered a chicha morada, also known as the purple corn drink. After tasting it, we agreed that it was similar to a berry juice but lighter and more refreshing. As we looked at the menu, it was interesting to see that next to every menu item it had the country or countries abbreviation from where the plate originated. To start, we ordered the La Colombia, a trio of Colombian sausage, beef empanada and “arepita” corn patty, and the Super Jalea, a bowl of fried shrimp, white fish, and plantains.
Some of our entrees included a Peruvian ceviche, calentado con huevos, a mix of rice, beef, pork belly, sausage, black beans, and two sunny side up eggs…
…and a Columbian hamburguesa with a beef patty, bacon, ham, and a pineapple sauce.
Needless to say, it was all overwhelmingly delicious.
With full bellies, we decided that we’d pay a visit to “Soaring in the Clouds”, an art installation done by artist Ed Wilson, who had recently done “The Raven” at SHSU. The piece is a sixty-two feet tall hanging sculpture in the entrance of the George R. Brown Convention Center but hangs from the ceiling, which is ninety-two feet above the floor.
If you looked at it at night, you’d see birds and clouds made of perforated steel suspended by wires with colorful lights dancing off of them creating a beautiful glow throughout the room. After admiring the art piece and taking a few photos…
…we headed across the street to wander around Discovery Green – a beautiful park filled with sculptures by various artists and even a small lake where people can rent kayaks.
After seeing the sights at George R. Brown and taking a brisk walk around Discovery Green, we hopped in the car and headed over to Montrose to check out the Rothko Chapel and the Menil Collection.
The Rothko Chapel was originally meant to be designed by Philip Johnson who designed St. Basil’s Cathedral, which we visited on the campus of St. Thomas’s University just the day before. He was also part of a joint team that designed Williams Tower, which stands among other skyscrapers in Houston. For the interior, Mark Rothko, a favorite artist of John and Dominique de Menil, was commissioned to fill the chapel with fourteen paintings, and due to Johnson’s and Rothko’s differing artistic visions, the task of completing the building was eventually turned over to local architects Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry.
Even though the chapel’s creation was a bit tempestuous, the mood there was tranquil and solemn, as the space was intended to create a mindful and reflective experience to all who enter.
After a brief time in the chapel, we went outside and strolled next door to the building that houses the Menil Collection. Located on the lot adjacent to the Rothko Chapel, the Menil Collection consists of over 16,000 pieces of art from the private collection of the Menils and is free to the public. Victoria was the only one of the ambassadors that had visited the museum before, but she was eager to see how many more artists she could recognize since her last time there. Photography wasn’t allowed inside any of the galleries (only the hallways),
…so we were unable to take pictures of our favorite pieces. Well, with the exception of Alexander Calder’s, whose sculpture is in the hallway!
Something interesting is that the museum has an entire section devoted to Claes Oldenburg and his Geometric Mouse sculpture, which we had seen a larger scale version of outside of the Houston Public Library while traversing through Houston.
The LEAP Ambassadors also saw a Claes Oldenburg sculpture on our trip to Denver last Spring, as well as in Marfa, Texas; Philadelphia, Dallas, and many other places.
At the Menil Collection, those among us that are not too familiar with art had a nice collection from which to begin learning! We discussed a few of the pieces that we found to our liking and ones that we thought were odd (of which there are many!) on the way back to the van. Our next and final stop was the Cloud Column by the Glassell School of Art!
The Cloud Column is a two-story tall oval shaped structure by artist Anish Kapoor, who is most famous for “Cloud Gate” in Chicago. The highly polished stainless-steel material creates a vivid reflection which, coincidentally, was the exact purpose of the piece – reflection. The idea is that the concaved center of the cloud allows for the reflection to bend, creating a blended image in which the clouds meet the Houston skyline.
We admired it for a more-than-brief moment before moving on to the rooftop garden which overlooks Downtown.
After an exciting and fulfilling trip to Houston, thus concluded the LEAP Retreat, and the Ambassadors were ready to return to Huntsville for class the next day.