Our last day in North Texas was short, but still allowed us to see a couple of interesting places that tied into other art, artists and architects we’ve been exposed to during this trip.
Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (“The Modern”) was completely different from the Kimbell Art Museum we visited earlier in the trip. There is a clear distinction between classic, older art and modern, newer art. And the name belies it’s rich history: The Modern is actually the oldest museum in Texas and one of the oldest museums in the western United States, founded by 20 women when Texas was only 47 years old.
Much of the permanent collection was displaced by two special exhibits: “David Park: A Retrospective” and “Disappearing—California, c. 1970: Bas Jan Ader, Chris Burden, Jack Goldstein.” Park, like many avant-garde American artists, engages the viewer with his expressionism and nonobjective painting. We did not spend a lot of time in Park’s exhibit, but we did find his portrayal of human figures interesting.
Despite its level abstraction, the human figure is still commonly used in Modern Art, as in Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure.”
It took Miranda and me a few moments to figure out, but we did catch it when looking at it from the correct angle. Miranda, like many, prefers art that is more representational and not as abstract. Esmie’s favorite (and we all agreed, the creepiest) art was in the “Disappearing” exhibit. These artists poignantly “disappeared” as a response to the anxiety of the 1970s—racial tensions, political assassinations, the war in Vietnam, and the war on poverty.
The exhibit was mostly black and white (color disappeared), and showcased such tangible items as the survival kits from the artists.
In “The Reason for the Neutron Bomb,” for example, Chris Burden covers the floor with 50,000 matches and 50,000 pennies, each representing one Soviet tank, a symbol of the tension and fear of the Cold-War era.
We also saw Jenny Holzer’s work. Holzer uses language to communicate her art, and this piece illustrates her style well.
It was a beautiful structure, and we learned some interesting new artists, but we had one more stop before calling it a trip.
Our last stop on the trip was Thanks-Giving Square in downtown Dallas. Thanks-Giving Square was designed by Philip Johnson, who also designed the Fort Worth Water Gardens which we visited earlier in the trip. Thanks-Giving Square was created with a sunken design.
By sinking the park below ground and incorporating water features into the park, visitors have a peaceful place to contemplate, free from the typical noises of a downtown area. The Thanks-Giving Square also features a mosaic by Normal Rockwell, “Golden Rule” (Rockwell places himself in the mosaic, in a cameo).
We both really enjoyed the Thanks-Giving Chapel with the featured “Glory Window” by Gabriel Loire. The “Glory Window” is a stained glass piece that cascades up in a spiral to the top of the chapel.
This Sunday, the sun was shining which illuminated the stained glass, making it very beautiful, and a positive spin to the end of a positively engaging trip.
The Texas City Management Association’s (TCMA) Annual Conference started on Friday with a warm welcome from TCMA’s President and City Manager of Granbury, Chris Coffman, followed by other welcome messages by the Mayor of Fort Worth, Dennis Shingleton, followed by the City Manager of Fort Worth, David Cooke, and Karen Pinkos, President of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). Pinkos spoke about the important role city managers hold, and how their job is not only to value, but also to include people in the community. Pinkos also spoke about a new ICMA program for assisting service members transitions into local government. Cooke then introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Bertice Berry. In her keynote address, “Living and Working in Purpose,” Berry captivated the audience with her humor and her sincere message.
Dr. Berry also encouraged the audience to leave a legacy–not when you pass away, but every time you leave a room. “When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.” Dr. Berry’s keynote speech made the audience laugh, tear up, and excited for the conference’s start.
The speech definitely worked for me, and I was fortunate to get a photo with her after her speech.
Texas A&M University School of Law (Esmeralda Mata)
I had the opportunity to meet Jeff Green, Graduate Programs Coordinator, and tour the beautiful campus building, from the library to classrooms and even the administrative offices.
Since purchasing Wesleyan Law School, Texas A&M has worked hard bring in top law professors, recruit good students, and make the law school competitive in every way. This is great news for students, but it also means that each year the school becomes more competitive. Mr. Green explained this on our tour, while also describing TAMU’s rich traditions, such as the “12th Man” and “The Big Event,”activities that “demostrate A&M’s core values.”
Mr. Green was also helpful in discussing the general process for getting into law school: preparing for the LSAT, taking the LSAT, getting letters of recommendations, and, of course, earning great grades.
It was a great tour, and I am very appreciative to Mr. Green for his time and insight.
Second Morning Session:
To maximize the coverage and education we will receive, we split up and attended both the “Valuing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” session as well as the “Managing Health Case Costs” session.
“Valuing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” included three panelists: Karen Daly (ICMA, Mountain Plains Regional Director); Carla Scales (Founder, Scales Consulting), and Mike Land (City Manager, City of Coppell). They emphasized the importance of qualifications; as Ms. Scales noted, “If my house catches on fire, I would like the most qualified firefighter to go to my house.” But they also emphasized strategies for getting diverse applicants: recruit from top and key institutions; post openings in a wide geographic range; and be thorough in your vetting. With Texas being a majority-minority state very soon, the emphasis on diversity becomes ever important.
These cities have taken different approaches to reducing costs, such as (1) negotiating with companies for the cheapest rates, (2) making preventitive care mandatory (penalties are actually imposed if you don’t get a checkup, for example), and (3) not covering spouses–only if spouses have access to care from their own jobs.
Lunch at the Little Red Wasp
Walking into Little Red Wasp, the bright red chairs and minimalistic arrangement drew our attention immediately. Our server was attentive, and the food was amazing. For lunch, we weren’t very adventurous, choosing the boring (but really good) crispy chicken sandwich with cabbage slaw, spinach, tomato, and tapenade…
…while Professor Yawn ordered a roasted Portobello sandwich with goat cheese, spinach, tomato, and tapenade. We were all pleasantly surprised with our options – and agreed that the various ingredients and condiments corresponded well with each other. We recommend!
“Breaking into the Profession,” featured a panel including City Managers Sereniah Breland (Pflugerville), Robert Camareno (New Braunfels), and Gina Nash (Sachse), and Karen Daly, ICMA Mountain Plains Regional Director. All the panelists spoke about their own untraditional path to being a city manager. Several emphasized the importance of networking and forming connections whenever you can. Our favorite portion of the panel was the advice from Sereniah Breland to the young professionals: “If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never do anything. Do it, and if you’re scared, then do it scared.” We would meet Ms. Breland again on this rewarding trip.
Kimbell Art Museum
After the conference we had the opportunity to visit the Kimbell Art Museum, designed by architect Louis I. Kahn. The sun was still shining in the early evening which allowed the natural light to pour into the building and illuminate the paintings, which appealed especially to Esmeralda, on her first visit to an art museum.
The Kimbell has pieces by several famous artists such as…Rembrandt van Rijn….
…Vincent Van Gogh (whose painting was prohibited from photographing)…Piet Mondrian…
The Kimbell’s current special exhibition is “Monet: The Late Years” which showcases a collection of pieces from Claude Monet’s works in the twenty years or so years prior to his death in 1926. The exhibit is laid out in a more or less chronological progression of his works from 1900 to his final piece in 1926.
Throughout the exhibit you can see how Monet’s struggle with cataracts influenced elements of each painting in the colors he used and the size of each brush stroke. For example, the detail in this piece suggests it was one of the earlier pieces in this exhibit.
And, indeed, the piece above was painted in 1904. The piece below, on the other hand, was painted in closer to his death, when his eyesight and style had changed, moving him in a more abstract direction.
Miranda’s favorite painting from the exhibit was entitled “Roses,”
and Esmeralda’s was “Weeping Willow.”
We both enjoyed seeing the layout of Monet’s estate, and his garden, where he drew his inspiration for his paintings.
Reata Restaurant was definitely a new experience — a mix of country and fancy, with expensive cigars displayed at the entrance, and raised candle centerpieces. Given the atmosphere, we were surprised that it was a more “Mexican” place to eat, evidenced on the menu. For starters, we ordered jalapeno and cheese elk sausage…
tenderloin tamales with pecan mash…
and Reata’s classic cornbread with butter. Those who had them especially enjoyed the tamales – they were nontraditional to say the least. For our entrees, we ordered boring food…grilled chicken breast topped with tomato bleu cheese salad, and chicken chile rellenos served with roasted corn chowder, and one slightly more adventurous chef’s special = quail. With a few minor exceptions, everyone else seemed to enjoy their food (Esmeralda was not a fan of the bleu cheese on her entrée). For dessert, we shared molten chocolate cake with drunken berries and vanilla cream, and a cappuccino crème Brule.
Miranda absolutely loved her dessert; it was my first-time tasting crème Brule, and while I was a bit anxious, I enjoyed it – it tasted like a melted cappuccino from Starbucks, with a buttery texture. We all agreed while it was nice to try new things, we had eaten too much over the course of the day!
To walk off a few of the calories from dinner, we decided to visit “Sundance Square” in Fort Worth, which features places for people to congregate, water fountains, and a beautiful Richard Haas Mural, “The Chisholm Trail.”
This location held particular interest for Esmeralda, who is interning with Linda Pease at the Wynne Home. Ms. Pease was responsible for having Richard Haas do some fourteen mural projects in Huntsville in the 1990s, and it was definitely interesting to see another of his large-scale works.
We also made our way over to the Forth Worth Water Gardens, which were designed by the great architect Philip Johnson in the 1970s. The site was used in the science fiction film “Logan’s Run,” as evidenced in this scene:
We made sure we used this opportunity to get some nice photos.
After an early start to the day and a brief stint with the car rental company, the LEAP Ambassadors were ready to begin their annual retreat. This time, we set off toward Houston for a fun and enriching weekend-long tour of the city. While our focus was on becoming better ambassadors, there were a few exciting events in the itinerary that we were very much looking forward to.
The LEAP Ambassadors marked the beginning of their retreat with an interesting take on African dining. Peli Peli in the Galleria caters African food with a colonial twist that many of the Ambassadors have never tried before. The dining room has a domed ceiling that is meant to emulate the view from beneath a canopy of trees in the desert and it’s backlit through a pattern of leaves and branches. Its culinary tributaries include English, Dutch, Indian, Portuguese and local indigenous flavors. Ranging from Chicken Espetada (a mango sauce covered chicken), Bobotie (a traditional South African dish, much like shepherd’s pie), kingklip (filleted eel), and many other wonderful dishes. The food that was brought out had different looks to each dish; some on a kabob stick hanging…
…and some decorated on the plate with unique sauces! While the entire spread was delectable, the kingklip and bobotie was a table favorite. The LEAP Ambassadors also had the pleasure of eating with former Ambassador Bianca and catch us all up on her life since she has graduated. She was able to offer advice and insight into her career in the fraud department at Woodforest National Bank. Her stories about her work made for interesting table talk among us and, before long, the main course was over and out came desert. We ordered the “Desert Trio,” a sampler of chocolate mousse, Melk tart (South African crème brûlée), and sticky toffee pudding. For this, there was no consensus on which dessert was the best.
After lunch, the Ambassadors headed towards Ice at the Galleria, the ice rink that is filled with people year-round. All Ambassadors except Ilexus have ice skated before, but everyone struggled with it, some more than others.
(In fairness, Chase was actually the best of the skaters.) As we gained our balance and our ground…
…we eventually enjoyed gliding through the rink and showing off some of our “skills”.
Some guidance and working as a team were required (insert individual pictures of us holding hands and skating) to make sure we didn’t fall.
When we left the rink, we felt a wave of exhaustion rush over us, but the day wasn’t over yet!
After showing off our grace on the ice rink, we made our way to “Murder by The Book”, a local Houston bookstore filled with copious mystery, murder, and crime books.
It is one of the oldest and largest bookstores that specializes in mystery books. After exploring the shelves, we found books that piqued our interest and became captivated in the works of certain authors such as Stephen King and Courtney Summers, while also catching a presentation by author Amy Stewart….
And when we left, we each left with a novel that caught our interest.
For our next stop, we were honored to see the work of one of the most influential American architects, Philip Johnson. The Chapel of St. Basil, which is located on The University of St. Thomas’ campus, exudes Modern and Post-Modern architecture styles, both of which Johnson is best known for.
Complementing the Chapel is the Felice Babin Gueymard Memorial Garden. This garden is a monument to tranquility and reflection. It’s filled with three fountains that rest behind a labyrinth which is often used for meditation and prayer. Some of us spent many minutes taking the long journey to the center.
After calming our minds in the Memorial Garden, we headed to the We Heart Houston sculpture by David Adickes – a tribute to the pride resonating from the locals that reside in the massive city.
Last time we visited, it rested along I-10. It has since been moved to the promenade near 8th Wonder Brewery in east Downtown Houston to provide a safer place for picture taking. After what seemed like the fiftieth jump, we finally came out with a decent L.E.A.P picture.
In the same location resides Adickes’ larger than life sculpture of The Beatles. Luckily, it was easier to take a picture with them without having to jump, plus we had Bianca as our photographer, so things came out wonderfully!
Although many of the LEAP Ambassadors could not name all 4 members, at least they came out with new knowledge to show off to their peers when the time comes.
In order to make it to our final event of the day on time, we had to sacrifice a sit-down meal for the sake of efficiency. Fortunately for us, this provided the alternative of getting delicious smoothies from Nékter Juice Bar – a smoothie chain just around the corner from our hotel in Downtown.
After grabbing our smoothies and changing into more formal clothes, we made our way to the Alley Theater. The Alley Theater opened in 1968 and is now a nationally recognized non-profit theater led by Interim Artistic Director James Black and Managing Director Dean R. Gladden. The showing at the time was Twelfth Night, a comedy written by William Shakespeare around 1601. When we arrived, we took a quick selfie outside and then made our way to our seats. As we walked into the theatre, our excitement grew as we saw the setup of the stage.
There was a big white wall with a staircase leading down. The stage was surrounded by a pool of water with a stone path that bridged the main stage with the outside edge. We could not wait to see how the play would incorporate it. There was a loud crack of lighting and then rain fell from the ceiling into the pool of water around the stage marking the beginning of the play. The next two hours were filled with astonishment, impressiveness, and lots of laughter. It was quite late by the end of the play, so each of the Ambassadors were exhausted, but happy from having seen a great play and having had a great day.
We returned to the hotel and settled into our rooms – excited for day 2 of the retreat.
It’s not easy to prioritize your time in a City when you have just five hours to spend, but we did a pretty good job of it.
Our morning began by visiting The Texas State Aquarium. As a fish enthusiast, Megan was especially looking forward to this underwater adventure. We began with a shark exhibit…
…before moving on to the Lion Fish and Electric Eels. One of the highlights was seeing the Aquarium staff in full scuba gear feeding these fish.
The Museum’s exhibits are well configured, giving you the opportunity to see them up close. The jellyfish exhibit, for example, is in low light, highlighting the animals translucent tissue.
The sea otters, crocodile, and bald eagle were outside, and they were in separate exhibits, again configured in such a way as to maximize human interaction with the animals. In the case of the sharks and stingrays, we could even put our arms in the water and “lightly touch the animals with two fingers.”
The true highlight of the aquarium are the dolphins. The trainers brought out four dolphins, two of which were especially good at tricks. Through mimicry, these dolphins learn to clap, jump out of the water, do flips, swim on their back, and even splash the audience! Our favorite was a three-spin flip.
Next door to the Aquarium is the city’s Art Museum of South Texas. The museum is housed in a structure designed by Philip Johnson and made from shellcrete.
The current exhibit in the Museum was of Texas Mixed Media, and my favorite artist represented was Mary McCleary, who is actually a Professor of Art at Stephen F. Austin University. In her artist statement, she indicates she takes found objects and layers them onto paper in a way that “conveys an intensity which the viewer finds compelling.” That was the case for me (Alex), and I’d like to see more of her work.
We also had a chance to see another Dale Chihuly, and I learned about the “Art Guys,” who have a work composed of clear glass tubes horizontally placed on the wall and filled with broken glass.
Megan, too, found a new artist she liked: Bill Meek. A glass artist from Houston, his piece “Catharsis” is in a sun room overlooking a piece by Jesus Moroles outside the building.
Speaking of which, the exterior of the Museum is as intriguing as the interior. The walkway to the building includes a large, ringed fountain.
Off to the side is a large piece by James Surls, who graduated from Sam Houston State University.
With all the art hitting close to home, we decided to stray outside the box for lunch. Thus we went to a Vietnamese Restaurant (literally called “Vietnam Restaurant”) in Corpus Christi. This seemed like an unlikely pairing, but the food was truly good. I (Megan) ordered the Vietnam Fried Rice, which was delicious; Alex had the Vermicelli Noodles with grilled chicken; and Professor Yawn had the restaurant’s signature “Hot Pot” which, after being slow cooked for 25 minutes was, indeed, hot! And very good. It was our favorite restaurant thus far in the trip.
Before leaving Corpus, however, we felt somewhat compelled to visit “Mirador de la Flor,” which is a memorial to Selena, the Tejano singer. Selena was shot at the age of 23 but she sold more than a million albums in her short career and paved the way for other Hispanic singers.
And with that visit, we closed down our time in Corpus Christi. Although “hooked” by the beaches, baseball, sea-life, and art, we had business in the Rio Grande Valley, so southward we roamed.
But not before getting drinks at Coffee Wave. We cannot recommend this enough! The coffee was good; the Mexican Hot Chocolate was excellent, even on a summer day; and the Chai Tea Latte was amazing! And with that, we waved goodbye to Corpus Christi!
After an intense 24 hour period competing and observing Moot Court proceedings, the LEAP Ambassadors, Moot Court participants, and members of the pre-law cohort decided to relax a bit, explore the history of Dallas on a Segway, and fill their bellies.
The relaxation involved some downtime at the hotel, followed by an ice-cream treat.
Shortly thereafter, another treat was in order. We stopped by Segway Nation for a tour of Dallas on a segway.
It was a beautiful time of day, what movie-makers call “magic hour,” and we made the most of it with pictures.
But, of course, with it turning a bit dark, Austin felt he need to serve as a protector of the group, and adopted a secret-service/tough guy look.
At first, not everyone felt totally relaxed…
…but eventually everyone got the hang of it, and we headed off to see Dallas.
The segway tour took us to Pioneer Plaza, a large outdoor sculpture that consists of 49 bronze steers and 3 riders created by sculptor Robert Sommers. Note that it appears that Alex is saluting when, in fact, that it is a longhorn projecting in front of her face.
The tour, led by excellent guides Doug and Jack, also took us by I. M. Pei’s Dallas City Hall, where we were able to turn and see the beautiful Dallas skyline which, according to our guides, is regularly listed as one of the five most beautiful in the US.
The tour also took us by the Kennedy assassination site on Elm Street. The students had a chance to get off the segways and walk to the “X” spots, which mark where the Oswald’s shots hit Kennedy.
We also entered the Kennedy Memorial, designed by Philip Johnson, one of the great architects of the 20th Century.
Speaking of Johnson, we were also able to go to Thanksgiving Square, a public space he designed in the 1970s as a means of racial and cultural healing. With a replication of Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” painting…
…and the “Ring of Thanks,” where visitors are encouraged to stand and offer thanks. From the center of the ring, the sound reverberates, symbolically echoing the many things for which we are thankful. In our group, thanks went to family, opportunities, school, and even the LEAP Center.
Thanksgiving Square also has a spiral chapel adorned with one of the largest stained glass assemblages in the world. The glass, designed by Gabriel Loire of France, is designed to become brighter as it ascends and moves to the center.
In the midst of such beauty, it was easy to be thankful.
And with that, we returned to the segway base, where we shed our helmets and headed to Hoffbrau Steaks (thanks for the recommendation, Doug!) and enjoyed a robust end-of-the-day dinner.
But before heading out we gave a few more thanks: to our LEAP Ambassadors, who came to Dallas to cheer on their Moot Court friends; to the Pre-Law cohort, who came to check out the action and consider joining the team for next year; for Kristyn, who decided to stick with the “team” rather than go home; and to our coach, Jean Loveall, who spent a lot of time teaching us the finer points of law.