So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You, OKC

On Saturday, the LEAPsters had to finally bid farewell to the endless flat land and lustrous skies of Oklahoma City, but not before a few last adventures. Like the tumbleweed in a dust storm, we drifted through the city and down to Dallas, in search of great art, food, and little bit of history.

Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum (Ashley)

After driving through the city and getting a feel for what 1995 would have been like in that quiet city, we reached the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. Never had we visited an institution dedicated to a single tragedy, being able to capture and include poignant details of the Oklahoma City Bombing. The museum was structured in an interesting way. We started from the second floor and then worked our way down to the first. The facts were presented in chronological order, beginning with the events, down to the minutes, leading up to the bombing. It was this introduction that set the exposition of this heart-wrenching story.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

It can be difficult to relate to an event (such as domestic terrorism) after being born years removed from it. But when you see how other people were impacted by it, the tragedy becomes more relatable. As we looked through the pre-bombing news articles and artifacts, we were amazed how Timothy McVeigh was actually interviewed by a journalist two years before, while professing anti-government propaganda related to the 1993 Branch Davidian Compound attack in Waco, Texas. Apparently these views were what compelled him to attack the Murrah Federal Building two years later. Perhaps the most gripping part of the museum was when we entered the model of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board room.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

There we listened to a recording of the board’s minutes the day of the bombing. In the middle of the recording, the voices die, the recording crackles, and the explosion roars in the background. With the flickering of the lights, and the sounds of panicked screaming and confusion, some of us were close to tears.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

We explored the rest of the museum, reading about the destruction…

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

…rescue, investigation, and miraculous rebuilding of the city.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

After we witnessed the destruction of the bombing through the exhibits…


…we stepped outside onto the memorial and found the survivor tree. The area was really a place of brilliance as it was full of beauty and somberness.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU, Survivor Tree

There were large gates on each side of a pool with the time a minute before (9:01) and after the detonation (9:03) of the bomb.

OK Bombinb Museum and Memorial, Oklahoma City, LEAP Center, SHSU

Perhaps most gripping from the memorial was the 168 chairs engraved with names representing the people who died during the explosion, with 19 small chairs honoring the deceased children. The museum at first emits a certain mournfulness, but because of the survivor tree and the resilience it shine with its green, resurrected branches, we left with a sense of hope. This memorial deeply touched us, and was definitely one of our favorite places we visited on this trip. With this sense of vitality, we reached the end of the gate and made to get some lunch.

Iron Star Urban BBQ (Kaitlyn Tyra)

Before departing from Oklahoma City, we stopped to fill our growling stomachs at Iron Star Urban BBQ. LEAPster, Ashley Allen immediately described the restaurant as “hipster BBQ.” Rightfully so perhaps, as the atmosphere of the restaurant was very trendy. Regardless of it being hipster, it proved to have tasty food. To experience the restaurant as much as possible, we ordered bacon wrapped quail breast and jalapeño cornbread to sample. Both were surprisingly tasty! For our main entrees, we tried the pulled pork sandwich, the pimento cheese burger, and the smoked prime rib sandwich.  Although the Oklahoma BBQ was different from our traditional Texas BBQ, we enjoyed trying Okie cousins’ delicious bbq!

Our dessert, like a sweet coup-de-grace, finished our meal consisting of a peach crisp, Drunken Turtle Cheesecake, and Double Chocolate Bread Pudding.

Iron Star Urban BBQ, Peach Crisp, LEAP Center, SHSU

Everyone had their own favorites but we enjoyed sampling them all. Iron Star BBQ was a fantastic final meal for our time in Oklahoma City!

With that we piled back into the car and settled in for our drive to Dallas.

Nasher Sculpture Center (Mitchell Sanchez)

At the midpoint between Oklahoma City and Huntsville, we decided to take a breather near downtown Dallas. We took this opportunity to visit the Nasher Sculpture Center. Raymond and Pasty Nasher began the art collection dating back to the 50’s. Together this couple has built one of the finest collections of 20th century sculptures in the entire world. The students had the privilege and honor to walk among some truly amazing pieces, from the quirky Claes Oldenburg…

Nasher Sculpture Garden, Claes Oldenburg, LEAP Center, SHSU

…to a couple of Pablo Picasso’s sculptures. One of them was inside one of the three galleries on the interior of the center, where other virtuosos of art were housed.  While the second, much larger, Picasso was outside in the 1.4-acre sculpture garden.

Nasher Sculpture Garden, Picasso, LEAP Center, SHSU

The garden contains more than 90 trees, including oaks, elms and crepe myrtles. In the midst of this urban forest were pieces by Henry Moore…

Nasher Sculpture Garden, SHSU, LEAP Center, Henry Moore

…George Segal, and Barbara Hepworth, just to name a few.  A particularly striking theme to the garden was how the nature and sharp cut stone and walk ways complemented each other in a way that demonstrated the ability of artists to enhance nature’s peace and beauty. The Nasher Sculpture Center gave us a wonderful vibe of elegance and peace. Peace much needed after a very momentous weekend.

Nasher Sculpture Garden, SHSU, LEAP Center, Henry Moore


With a last stroll through Klyde Warren Park, among a thong of lively children and mirthful adults, we boarded our van and made the last stretch to Huntsville. With the moon behind the clouds, and an air of tranquility, we ended our trip with a restful chat of all the wonderful adventures we had during the trip. From tripping through the ice, to trying out buffalo burgers, we reminisced on the happy memories of our Texoma LEAP Trip.

OK Bombing Memorial, Survivor Tree, SHSU, LEAP Center

Holy Toledo–Art at the Toledo Museum of Art

By Brian Aldaco

After four days of researching the Vagabonds with Jeff Guinn and Jim Fuquay at the Henry Ford Museum, other attractions were bound to be something of a let down.  But the Toledo Museum of Art offered a surprisingly nice collection and a truly inspired special exhibit by Jaume Plensa.

With a Greek entrance of white marble pillars, artistically grand in its own right, the art within was just as impressive. However, before viewing the fine arts we examined the art of the political campaign thanks to the museum’s special exhibit I Approve this Message: Decoding Political Ads.

Political Ads, Toledo Museum of Art
Paul Oliver Examines Political Ads at the Toledo Museum of Art

As political science majors, Brian and Paul ventured through the floor to examine such ads as Reagan’s “The Bear” ad . This ad showcased a prowling bear through the forest and a man who forces the beast to retreat by standing up to it. Thanks to the exhibit’s captions we discovered that the bear was a symbol for Russia, thus the ad implied that Ronald Reagan’s strong will would be able to defeat the Russian menace of the time. So being we went over our president’s ads and those who had gone against them during the age of Television.

Toledo Museum of Art
                                            Brian Aldaco Runs for Office with Unfortunate Results

Leaving the floor we walked to the east wing to view the contemporary art. There we saw works by various renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso…

Picasso, Toledo Museum of Art
Picasso, in his Blue Period

…Chuck Close…

Chuck Close, Toledo Museum of Art
Chuck Close Artwork

…Childe Hassam…

Childe Hassam, Toledo Museum of Art

…Claude Monet…


…as well as Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, and Louise Nevelson.


There was a sense of satisfaction in being able to recognize these and other artists from within the collection.

To appreciate the sculpture garden, we stepped outside to view a George Rickey silver mobile…


…Tony Smith’s Moses…


and other sculptures…


…most notably those of Jaume Plensa (who had a whole floor dedicated to his work inside the museum.)


But before examining the indoors art, we sat on a very peculiar Polar Bear Bench by artist Judy McKie.


Not only did this sculpture offer an appropriate resting spot, it also allowed us to find a glass walled building from which the interior glistened with hues of clear, colorful glass. Upon further inspection, with a silver Chihuly hanging from the ceiling…


…we entered the museum’s annexed Glass Pavilion. Inside we found a wide assortment of glass sculptures from the quirky glass moquettes of modern venues by Emily Brock to Roman glass decor dating back to the 4th century (all in the pristine condition from when it was first blown!) It was clear that the glass blowing techniques of the time were advanced, a technique that we witnessed inside the pavilion.


Apart from the beautiful art within the exhibit hall, there is also a glass blowing workshop.


Inside the room stand ovens heating up to a temperature of about 2150 degrees fahrenheit, undoubtedly no ordinary oven. However, these high temperatures are essential for molding the crystalline medium. So much is the nicety to keep the glass at near melting condition that if its temperate cools off before the intended time, the modeling tools can break the glass and ruin the whole sculpture. As the team of sculptures, on who molded the glowing vase and another who blew at it to expand it from the rod’s other end, continued their process of inserting the glass in the oven followed by a spinning of the material to give it its shape, we left the workshop to view the rest of the museum on its main campus.

Upon entrance to the museum we turned to the opposite wing of which we had already toured. With pieces from Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Paul Signac…


…and Piet Mondrian.


…we wandered through the canvasses of bright colors, swift burst strokes, and dream-like landscapes onto a grand hall of a more a classic collection. Under the twinkling chandelier the prominence of the works exhibited were accentuated to create an effect of awe. With works by Ralph Albert Blakelock, El Greco, and   we moved through the hall into a vast room with elongated heads of women.


Even though the sight may sound a bit macabre, the warmly lit room featured the works of Jaume Plensa and created a near meditative trance.


Perhaps the most appealing may have been Silent Rain. With fragments from poems attached to wires hanging from the ceiling, creating an effect of raining phrases, we were astounded.


We felt a similar pleasure and wonder from Plensa’s See no Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil


…but whether it was a sculpture or painting from Plensa the same was true.


His works are successful in priming the viewer into a meditative reflection on the human spirit and expression.


So much were we drawn to each piece that soon the doors around us were being locked, lights were being shut off, and halls were flooded with darkness. The museum was closing, therefore we left the campus to complete our evening’s drive to our resting spot. After driving through the night scene of Rutherford B. Hayes’ home in Fremont, Ohio, we reached our hotel in Milan, Ohio. So being, we finished another exciting, educational day of our return-to-home part of the trip, with high spirits and persistent a strong will to continue our LEAP adventures.

Jaume Plensa, Tree Huggers, Toledo Museum of Art
                                                                            Jaume Plensa’s Tree Huggers

Law, Art, and Pork: The Heart of Little Rock (Day 2, Morning Edition)

After a quick coffee stop to help wake us, we were fortunate enough to visit the Supreme Court of Arkansas.

We met with the public education coordinator, Cara Fitzgerald, who earned her law degree from Southern Illinois University and who passed the bar in at least three states!


She started the tour by teaching us more about the history of the building. Like the Old State House, the Supreme Court building has undergone changes throughout the years. The first building to house the Supreme Court was actually The Old State House, the second is at the location it is now and then it was remodeled a third time, which is the current building that houses both the Supreme Court and the Appeals Court.

We continued the tour of the west wing, where they display the portraits of the previous justices who have served on the Supreme Court…


…and as we moved along we were shown the portraits of all seven presiding justices.  The first thing that stood out to some of us was that the majority of the Justices currently on the Supreme Court of Arkansas are women.

After learning more about the current Justices and the recent death of their Chief Justice, Ms. Fitzgerald introduced us to Associate Justice Robin F. Wynne who joined in on the tour! Once in the courtroom, we introduced ourselves to Justice Wynne and he then introduced himself and told us about his journey to becoming a Supreme Court Justice.


He then asked us the simple most important question that he asks all of his students, “Why do you want to be an attorney?” Many of us had not been asked this question before, which led us to really reflect on why we wanted to go down that career path. Our answers to the question ranged from helping people and having a say in our society to solving puzzles and upholding the law.


After Justice Wynne was able to get to know us more based on our answers, he and his law clerk, John Webster gave us great advice on how to get the best out of law school.


John Webster explained to us exactly what a law clerk does and why, if we get the chance, it is an opportunity to take advantage of in law school. They also explained to us what they look for in applicants for their office, and one of the most important things was a “hook”. Justice Wynne explained that he not only looks at grades, but also the substance of the applicants’ character. After the very informational discussion with Justice Wynne and Mr. Webster, they took us on a very personal tour of his office where he explained what his typical week at the office consists of. Oral arguments are on Thursday; opinions are on Wednesday; and Monday and Tuesday are much-needed reading days. Each justice is assigned five cases a week and one of those is considered a primary case in which they take a leadership role. After discussing this process, he showed us the conference chamber where the seven justices meet after oral arguments to talk about the reasons they dissent or support each others’ opinions.


Justice Wynne even let us take a picture in the conference chamber with him!


After the private tour, we asked Ms. Fitzgerald how often tour groups get to go up to see the Justices offices and the conference room, to which she replied that she couldn’t recall it ever happening before! We were all extremely grateful for the hospitality that Justice Wynne showed us while teaching us an immense amount about the ins and outs of the Supreme Court of Arkansas.

During the last portion of the tour we dressed in black robes and acted as Justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court. The tour of the Supreme Court of Arkansas was an amazing way to learn more about the court system, and left us all in awe of how great of a time we had while we were visiting. Once everyone had their turn banging the gavel, it was time to go onto our next adventure.

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Our next adventure was the Arkansas Arts Center.  Although  not as large as the major Art Museums, they have a nice permanent collection, much of which was donated by the Rockefellers (Winston Rockefeller was Governor of AR in the 1960s).  The collection contains works by Miro, Picasso, and Monet…


…among many others.

This time, however, the real treat were the special exhibits.  One featured the photography of Dortothea Lange, the photographer who captured the Great Depression and the plight of the migrant workers so perfectly.


Another exhibit featured the work of Charles Burchfield, who focused on the mixed blessings of urbanization.


Both art collections were created near the same time period, but they were very different in medium and subject matter. Charles Burchfield’s art depicted “Industrial Beauty” using watercolor paints. Black Iron, the exhibit centerpiece, was inspired by the port of Buffalo on Lake Erie.


According to the exhibit, Burchfield saw the bridges as part of an industrial complex spewing poisonous chemicals into the river; yet he found the massive structures irresistibly beautiful.” The paintings and drawings used darker colors to convey emotion.

Dorothea Lange is known for her black and white photography during the Great Depression Era. Each photograph captured emotion that strikes viewers immediately. Her works had great impact on legislation during the time period and even in the way films depicted people of the Great Depression Era. One of her most famous photographs, Migrant Mothers, was showcased along with a variety of other photos that were new to many of us.


Each person left with a favorite photo from her collection.

A third,  smaller special exhibit featured the work of Nathalia Edenmont, who makes dresses from flowers and other produce.


This theme tied into a discussion Megan and I have had in our art class, which revolved around the question of whether the Ag Department’s “Floral Design” class should be considered an art class.

The Arkansas Arts Center was the perfect place to learn about a large variety of art because it explained the distinguishing characteristics of each genre. The art ranged from small, detailed, and complex paintings to intricate, colorful, and sometimes puzzling statues.


Overall, the LEAP Ambassadors enjoyed gaining new knowledge of art in Arkansas.

Lunch was a treat for us avid meat-lovers as we decided to fill our stomachs at The Whole Hog Cafe, a LEAP Center tradition. Catering a country style atmosphere while offering a variety of award-winning meat (as indicated by the line of trophies displayed near the entrance of the cafe), we knew we were going to be satisfied! To get the most out of our experience, we ordered three plates of The Ultimate Platter, which consisted of pulled pork, beef, chicken, ribs as the main course, and coleslaw, beans, potato salad, and rolls as sides.


Enhancing the overload of finely cooked meat were the six diverse choices of barbecue sauces, ranging from sweet to spicy to slightly tangy.


Each sauce was unique and each person had a chance to pick a favorite. The top three according to our collective preferences were Sauce No. 1 (sweet, mild, molasses flavor), Sauce No. 3 (spicy, traditional tomato, vinegar flavor) and Sauce No. 5 (sweet, heavy, molasses flavor) tied for 2nd place, while for third was Sauce No. 2 (a less spicy version of Sauce No. 3). We also indulged in the best (according to Alex) chocolate brownies for dessert. The service, the platter, the BBQ sauces and the fun conversations that filled our table made for a great experience at Whole Hog Café.