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…
…or when Karla Rosales visited a few days later.
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.
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!
With an initial rocky start of forgetting to pick up Brian from Willis, and having to turn back at Conroe which caused a delay of 25 minutes to our trip, we finally headed for Big Bend. To mark the first day of our West Texas Tour, we joined Mark Burns in Houston’s Hermann Park. What brings us to Hermann Park when our destination is Big Bend Canyon, you ask? In the middle of the entrance rotunda of the park, as some may remember from our previous Hermann Park visit, stands a statue of a horse-mounted General Sam Houston (created by Enrico Carracchio) that greets all visitors into the park.
To honor the statue of this great Texas hero, Mr. Burns decided to photograph its grandeur.
Standing a few feet behind the camera-wielding Burns, we captured his photographic process through still and motion photography.
This we will do along the trip as we continue to record Mr. Burns at his craft for his documentary.
During his photo session, he explained to us how he framed the shot, pointing out different factors in the scene that could beautify his subject.
He also mentioned how he was waiting for the perfect lighting conditions in the cloudy sky.
After a few shots, we cleared the area, but not before taking some striking footage of Mark Burns. Mr. Burns soon finished his photoshoot in Hermann Park, and after showing some of his impressive photographic instruments, we climbed into our vans and headed towards San Antonio.
Along the way, however, we decided to soothe our grumbling stomachs with a short stop in Columbus, Texas. This quiet, quaint town, located about an hour west of Houston, is home to Keyser Market. Among other things, it is also home to an architecturally impressive courthouse. Even though we were unable to explore much of the town, we did enjoy a delicious sausage and chicken meal from Keyser. With our hunger satisfied, we got back on the road.
Soon, the country-land of vast pastures gave way to a network of highways; we had made it into San Antonio. On our first stop was the McNay Art Museum, located on the northeastern side of town.
Before we began our trip, we learned that the McNay had recently acquired a Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture. Excited, we entered the museum with the plan to pose by this LEAP favorite artwork. But more on that later.
As always, we went through the museum’s exhibits identifying artists that we were familiar with. In the first room of artworks we were amazed with an art piece by Alexander Calder. Snake on a Table, is a bronze, snake-like sculpture designed by Calder that balances on a table top while standing upright. The physics that makes this possible are incomprehensible to us as the snake balanced precariously on the edge of the round table. Nonetheless, the beauty in balance was just as inspiring. In the room, we also noticed pieces from other LEAP favorites such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, and Diego Rivera.
We also saw work by a recent LEAP favorite, Jim Love…
Moving on to the next room, we noticed two Pablo Picassos, Crouching Woman and Portrait of Sylvette. Acknowledging the impressive pieces, we decided to commemorate the artworks by LEAPosing for a photograph.
Every artwork had its own beauty, but the two that called our attention were a Pablo Picasso from his “blue period” and a non-minimalist Piet Mondrian. These artworks that differed immensely from their typical paintings, demonstrated the versatility of the artists. As LEAP offers eclectic opportunities to its students, we like to think that we are also versatile. Weather our varying talents include photography, you will have to judge our photos throughout the trip to answer this question.
In the meantime, we continued to explore the museum’s awe-inspiring collection. Before heading off to the sculpture garden on the grounds, we took a quick look at the south-western exhibit. We found the warm colors in the pieces to be soothing. Within the exhibit, we also marveled at a few artworks by Georgia O’Keeffe.
With the indoors artwork all viewed, we wondered onto the sculpture garden in search of LOVE, or at least Robert Indiana’s sculpture of LOVE. We explored the grounds and noticed some impressive sculptures that captivated our imagination. One sculpture by Joel Shapiro captured our attention with its gravity-defying qualities. However, we still had not found the sculpture that prompted our visit to the museum. It was with great dismay that after walking through the entire garden and coming back to where we started, we found a rectangular cover made up of panels. With trepidation, we neared the plaque at the foot of the enclosure. The plaque read “Robert Indiana, LOVE.” We learned that the museum is in the process of installing a new exhibit. To prevent certain sculptures from being damaged during the installation, some outdoor artworks had been covered, consequently denying the view of the public. With sadness, and feeling little love, we still posed in front of the covered sculpture with the determination to leave with a photo.
As we were sure that no one was left behind (including Brian), we climbed into our van, eager to continue our adventure.
The Alamo, The Saga, and Mi Tierra, by Christina
After exploring some San Antonio art and scouting out potential photography areas–including the Alam0…
…we headed to dinner at the Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia. Since there were many Hispanic/Mexican among the group, we wanted to make it as authentic as possible. That is how we ended up in the Mexican Historic Downtown Market. As we walked into Mi Tierra, we could see colorful piñatas hanging from the ceiling and with each room that we passed the walls differed in colors. It was hard to decide on what to eat because everything sounded delicious. Brian ordered The Sonora Special, which included beef tips with ranchero salsa smothered on top. Brian is (or so he likes to think) our authentic Mexican food specialist. The others chose a wide variety of Mexican dishes including the Mole and guisado. While we waited for the food, we even had some mariachi sing the “Caminos of Guanajuato”, For dessert, we all shared some exquisite flan and it was scrumptious!
After dinner, we arrived at the San Fernando cathedral for “The Saga”, which is a light show that electrified the audience with its mesmerizing scenes. It told the story of San Antonio from the Alamo to the present day. To accompany the lights in the storytelling, there was also a collage of songs to represent the different changes of time.
The show lasted about 25 minutes. We decided to walk off our food and since Beatriz had never been to the river walk, we decided to take a stroll along the river walk. Finally, after getting lost a couple of times, we headed back home for some rest and to get ready for the early start tomorrow.
We wanted to wrap up our trip to Houston with some additional memorable experiences. Despite extensive interaction with the artist (and Huntsville native) David Adickes in Huntsville, we had never visited his Houston art. That changed today!
We visited the “WE HEART Houston” sign that Adickes created several years ago. Although the site was clearly not created with parking in mind, it’s a lot of fun, and we made the most of it, with a LEAP, albeit one that was never perfectly choreographed by the entire group…
…but eventually we got a perfectly choreographed standing photo.
Perhaps our starving stomachs had gotten the best of us.
The culmination of our multi-cultural exploration was lunch at Peli Peli Kitchen. This South African fusion restaurant blends the foods of countries which have influenced African development to create flavor-rich dishes. Inspired by India, Holland, France, England, and American food, the menu includes naan tacos, banh mi, salads, and much more.
We tried the South African fajita, the hugenot porkbelly, and the peli peli shrimp tacos. Brian, our most adventurous Ambassador, even tried the braised oxtail. Everyone was impressed with the new types of food! For dessert, we all sampled Peli Peli’s signature sticky toffee cupcake, red velvet cupcake, and gingersnap chocolate cookies.
The end of lunch also marked the end of our Arts and Parks tour in Houston. It was a short weekend for students, but a long LEAP for our education.
A key part of our “Arts and Parks” tour of Houston was “Hermann Park. Named for George Hermann who, in 1914, deeded 285 acres for use as a park, the park is now the “central park” of Houston.
For good reason: it has many hidden treasures, and we set out to find them. The LEAP Ambassadors have participated in many different activities but for the first time they were tasked with completing a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt included 19 clues that led to different sculptures, landmarks, and pieces of art around the park.
One such work of art was Enrico Cerrachio’s “Sam Houston,” which marks the entrance to the park.
This interested us not only because we attend Sam Houston State University, but also because there is discussion that a group named “Antifa” wants the statue to come down. We don’t think that’s going to happen, but it might have added an urgency to our efforts to get multiple photographs.
We began our tour collectively, going to the Japanese Gardens.The gardens are not only picturesque, but they helped reinforce a theme of our trip. Houston has a large and thriving Asian population, and with visits to these Japanese Gardens, the Asia Society, and a top-notch Japanese restaurant, this culture’s contributions were a key component of learning in our trip.
We divided into three teams: (1) Brian and Kaitlyn or, as they are sometimes known, “Braitlyn”, (2) Christina, Bianca, and Lizette, and (3) Karla, Makayla, and Beatriz.
The rules were simple: 1) we had 3 hours to reach our goals, (2) we were not allowed to use google, and (3) we photographed our presence at site for proof of “discovery.” Our goals were to: (1) efficiently cover a 445 acre park, (2) learn as much about the park is as possible–and by extension, the potential of all parks; (3) and to have fun!
Some of the clues included “Unlock your destiny” which referred to Atropos Key, a sculpture by Hannah Holliday Stewart.
Atropos refers to one of the three Greek “fates,” who spin, measure, and terminate a person’s life. Atropos, incidentally, was the sister who held the shears; that is, she decided when to cut the thread.
Another clue was “Don’t twiddle your thumbs, but Twaddle on the top of the Mount with Seeds, Trees, and People” which referred to Randy Twaddle’s Seeds, Trees, and People, located on top of the Centennial Gardens Mount.
One of our clues was: “Sit down with Jesus.” What we were supposed to look for was a granite bench crafted by Jesus Moroles…
What we found was…
We think we were both correct.
We also saw Trojan Bear by Jim Love…
…Dillidiidae by Sharon Engelstein….
..and many others.
We also learned about Scottish poets…
We also discovered a sculpture of Oliver Twist by Trace Guthrie.
We mention this, because Mr. Guthrie did a sculpture of Sam Houston outside of Austin Hall on SHSU’s campus. We’re sure no one is taking that one down!
We also saw a zoo-like assortment of animals…
Indeed, Bianca did a pretty good Dr. Doolittle impersonation!
In looking for animals, we even saw an engagement proposal…!
We also had a chance to ride a train…
…and go out on a boat…
Despite the appearances of relaxation, however, some took the competition seriously…
With all the sprinting, we occasionally needed to cool off…
…But, in true LEAP Center fashion, we still had time to help small children…
Living close to one of the largest cities in the US, it is always tempting to visit the hustle and bustle of Houston. With 375 developed parks under the City of Houston Parks Department and an established art community in the city, the LEAP Ambassadors planned a weekend itinerary full of parks and art museums. To kick off our weekend, we gathered old and new friends to join us in our visit to of one of Houston’s newest marvels.
In the dark, mysterious cavern, a group of around 30 people waited in anticipation for one of Houston’s most unique art performances.
The LEAP Ambassadors were meeting other SHSU alumni that had previously been either a LEAP Ambassador or Junior Fellow at the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern. As special guests, Mark Burns and Betty Moody accompanied us throughout this expedition.
The Cistern is an 87,500-square foot underground reservoir much in resemblance to the ancient Roman cisterns in Istanbul. This city reservoir was constructed in 1926 to provide fire suppression and store drinking water. In 2007, it was put out of commission when it sprang a leak that was never located or contained.
Three years later, this historical landsite was about to be demolished. However, around that same time, the Buffalo Bayou Park Partnership was working on the Buffalo Bayou Park project when they happened to discover the cistern. They acquired a $1.2 million grant from the Brown Foundation to remodel the space and repurpose it for art installations.
With its 18-inches of water and its 221-25ft tall columns, this imposing structure was the perfect medium for the art installment that Fernandez had in mind. With the help of the a-cappella Slovenian choir, Perpetuum Jazzile, she orchestrated an installation that appeals to sight and sound alike.
With snaps, hand slaps, stomps, and drumming, the Perpetuum Jazzile were able to emulate the sound of rain. With the accompaniment of a light show that danced across the stern columns, she created a space that emanated the sense of being in the middle of a rain storm.
Thunder and lightning struck, as well as wonder and amazement while in the cistern. With old and new friends to enjoy it with, Rain -as the installation is appropriately titled- was a wondrous experience.
The Cistern, located just outside of downtown Houston, also served as a wonderful spot for a reunion photograph!
Following our tour of the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, our group met at Black Walnut Café. There, past and present Ambassadors visited with each other while specials guest Betty Moody joined the reunion. Sampling a number of meals such as the Doc Krazy turkey burger, a french dip sandwich, and the spicy jalapeno chicken pasta, we enjoyed the meal almost as much as the pleasant conversation.
Before the evening ended, LEAP Ambassadors thanked our graduating members- Alex, Megan, and Jessica- with well wishes and gifts. Megan, Alex, and Jessica will all be heading to different law schools in the fall.
Additionally, we made sure to thank Ryan Brim, who graduated high school this semester and will pursue an engineering degree at the University of Arkansas. Most amusing from this gift giving, was Ryan’s college-prep present. It consisted of a shower caddy with travel sized shampoos and soaps. Participating in ten years of LEAP events and trips, for the past few years he has used our hotel lodgings to save on toiletry expenses by collecting shampoos and soaps. A peculiar habit indeed, it is certain that Ryan would rather not have his secret revealed in such a public setting.
Dinner continued with a myriad of conversion. From table to table, alumni shared advise with current students, a dedicated art gallery owner shared her work experience with engaged listeners, while other students mingled with each other on future job opportunities. Enclosed in the room was the resonant sound of joyful conversation that could only come from friends happy to se each other.
As conversation receded, the evening ended as alumni and guests headed home. For the LEAP Ambassadors, we were thankful for our visit with friends and headed to our hotel to prepare for the rest of our Houston Arts and Parks Tour.
Due to prior obligations (aka work), Karla and I (Kaitlyn) packed up our car early in the afternoon to head to Austin to meet up with our fellow Ambassadors who are attending NPF Campaign Bootcamp.
Although the weather was not ideal, we left determined to get to Austin! Quickly, we realized the drive was not going to be as easy as we anticipated. We avoided multiple road closures by driving south towards Houston. Flooding on the roads and continuous rain created traffic issues on top of the rain…
…but we did our best to stay positive and keep going. At times it was difficult to adapt to the road changes, but we did learn how to use our resources like Texas Department of Transportation, instead of relying only on our phone’s GPS. Around three hours into our drive, we came to an impasse. Not knowing which direction to turn, we called Professor Yawn in Austin for guidance. With his help, we tried multiple roads with no luck, mired in a sea of troubles.
Eventually, we ended up back on the highway headed for Huntsville. After our long day of driving, we sadly returned home. With the torrential rain and storms that struck our area, we decided it was best to stay home with the goal to attend Campaign Bootcamp next year. We know that our fellow Ambassadors will represent Sam Houston well!