While a current LEAP Ambassador enjoyed six days in Austin as part of the New Leadership Texas program, two recent graduates were spending days in San Antonio as elected delegates to the State Republican Convention.
For those who have never been to a state convention, it’s an experience. While many delegates meet on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to attend committee meetings, most of the rank-and-file delegates show up on Thursday to participate in votes, listen to speeches by the state’s leading public figures, and to enjoy special events hosted by the party and its leaders.
For Karla Rosales and Christina Perez, it was an opportunity to move into leadership positions. Karla, who was making her second appearance as a delegate, was appointed delegate counter for Walker County, at least for the first day. For Christina, a first-time delegate, it was a chance to make new connections, learn about the process, and do some work for her new boss, Congressman Kevin Brady, at his Saturday “Kolaches with Kevin” event.
The official business began on Thursday, June 14, when delegates met in General Session for a “get-acquainted session,” but also to hear speeches from the two candidates for State Party Chair: (1) the incumbent James Dickey and (2) challenger Cindy Asche. Both spoke in the general session, asking for votes and laying out a vision.
When the general session convened, delegates headed to rooms sorted by Senatorial District. Walker County delegates headed to Senate District 5–a district more or less controlled by the populous Williamson County–where business was tended to.
The business included electing permanent officers for our senate district meetings; and electing members to the credentials, rules, platform, legislative priorities, and state nominations committees. When these positions were contested, they involved taking votes, and Karla had a chance to perform her duties as “vote counter.”
During this process, the Senate District voted in Walker County’s own Madeline Loosier as a member of the Legislative Priorities committee.
This “get-acquainted” day ended early, leaving delegates the opportunity to attend various social events or to do their own thing. For Karla and Christina, this involved heading to the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, where much fun was had.
One of the key exhibits was “Immersed,” which included four artists–including Andy Warhol’s film “Sunset”–whose work involved immersing yourself in the experience of art. The first of these, “Pleasure Principle,” by Chris Sauter, was quite an experience, with odd lights shining through holes in a “home” that was unusually decorated.
Perhaps the most fun of the installations was Phillip Worthington’s “Shadow Monsters,” which allowed visitors to be part of the art. Visitors stood in front of a light, which transmogrified the visitor’s appearance, while also allowing them the opportunity to access numerous props, which were similar transmogrified by the screen.
Also intriguing was Yayoi Kusama’s…
… “Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity,” a hall of mirrors type installation, which also included lighting effects.
This was another of our favorites, and was doubly interesting because we had seen a similar work by this artist at the Phoenix Art Museum.
Our least favorite was “Sunset,” by Andy Warhol, which was a 33-minute abstract-like film of a sunset.
In the midst of these installations were fun interactive “art” games that we quickly jumped into, while also branding LEAP at the McNay.
The McNay isn’t as large as the major museums in Dallas or Houston, but it has a very nice collection, with a smattering of works across diverse times and regions. There were 19th century European masters such as Van Gogh…
Plus, much modern and contemporary art, such as Picasso…
…Pollock (far left, below)…
…OKeeffe (center, above; and below)…
…and SHSU alum Danville Chadburne.
Their sculpture garden is smallish, but has a very nice collection of artists such as Lois Jimenez…
…the aforementioned Robert Indiana…
…and Joel Shapiro….
It was a fun start to the convention and site-seeing, and a nice way to mix art and politics.
The LEAP Ambassadors were saddened to hear of Robert Indiana’s passing last week. Indiana was part of “pop-art” generation of artists that came of age in the 1950s and 1960s, and he is best known for his “LOVE” sculpture.
As far as we can tell, there are 21 such LOVE sculptures in the United States, and the LEAP Ambassadors have visited seven of them. Our most frequently visited of his sculptures is at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden in New Orleans…
…but we’ve also made multiple visits to the Indiana sculpture at Crystal Bridges, in NW Arkansas…
Some campuses are fortunate enough to have Indiana’s sculptures, and we’ve visited two of those, one on OU’s campus in Norman…
…and one in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love…
Speaking of Philadelphia, they also have one near City Hall…
The first such sculpture was in Indiana, which displays Indiana in front of work by another pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein…
Indiana’s Capitol Building also showcases “LOVE,” but not in sculpture form…
The City of Scottsdale showcases a “LOVE” sculpture near their civic plaza…
…and we saw a version of LOVE (by another artist) in Odessa, next to versions of Rothko and O’Keeffe…
…our least favorite “LOVE” sculpture was in San Antonio, where the sculpture was wrapped up to protect it while the Museum did construction. We searched for far too long, wondering why we couldn’t find it, only to realize it was in this ridiculous-looking wrapped box.
Interestingly, not all of the “LOVE” sculptures say L-O-V-E. This one in DC, for example, says A-M-O-R.
That’s eight versions of LOVE, not counting the one that San Antonio boxed up, and not counting the stamps or the non-sculptural versions of the piece we have seen.
With trips this summer planned for San Antonio and Kansas, we’ll add at least two more to our list, leaving eleven more before we become Robert Indiana completists.
Even as we entered the homestretch, nearing the end of our trip, we remained excited about our time in Northwest Arkansas. With trips to Eureka Springs, the Thorncrown Chapel, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art ahead of us, we were ready for a day of fun and education.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas Written by: Brian Aldaco, Megan Chapa, and Kaitlyn Tyra
After hearing about how great of a little town Eureka Springs was from all of the people that we had met at the Southern Legislative Conference, we were all ready to go see it for ourselves! Before our planned bus tour we visited Fresh Harvest, a fine olive oil shop near the visitors center. None of us had ever been to an olive oil tasting, so this was another “first” to write off in our books! One of the workers kindly walked us through some of the different kind of olive oils and explained the differences among them.
During the explanations of the oils, we were given the chance to taste each one until we had found the ones we loved. They had everything ranging from balsamic and vinaigrettes to jams that contained rich olive oil. We were also informed that they are made in house and are even bottled there. After wandering around the aisles filled with canisters of oil and tasting all of those that sounded appealing (such as white peach and raspberry), we chose some of our favorites, checked out and scurried to our bus tour.
Once we all made it out of Fresh Harvest, we leaped into the bus and began riding through the winding roads of Eureka Springs to tour through a one-of-a-kind city. Eureka Springs is most famously known for its system of freshwater springs that can be spotted all around the town. We began the tour by getting on highway 62, leaving the town behind as the bus snaked it’s way through woods and cliffs. On the roadside one could see various motels curiously built amidst the rocky mountains of what could be perceived as a town of low significance. However, such a statement does in no way describe Eureka Springs. With a rich history of Native American tribes, our guide described the importance of the Osage, the tribe which roamed the area before the Europeans made their way though the hidden Ozark Valley. The tribe, fierce protectors of their territory, would even share their healing spring water with their warring enemy tribes. It was en route to a scenic roadside view of this valley that we could appreciate the rugged terrain these tribes and early settlers of the town would have faced in settling on that land. Through hills of endless forests we continued on to an unobstructed vista of the White River along with its green, vast valley.
Doctor Alba Jackson used the Blue Spring waters to treat Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War after discovering it’s “healing effects” from treating his son’s failing eyes. It was after this destructive time period that many sought healing via Eureka Spring’s natural waters. As word spread through the nation of the town’s natural spring water, (which could allegedly be used to treat and cure any type of illness from the common cold down to yellow fever and more) the once forested Hidden Ozark Valley was cleared in order to build what would become Eureka Springs. From one day to another, the small settlement went from a few cabins to Arkansas second largest city in 1878.
On our way back towards Eureka, we drove though a winding driveway, and through the heavy foliage, one could barley see a towering, gray structure which deliberately blended itself with its natural surroundings known as Thorncrown Chapel. Designed by E. Fay Jones (a student of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright), the forty-eight feet tall wooden chapel was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ Design of the Decade Award in the 1980’s.
We all sat in awe of the towering chapel that blended with the surrounding nature and compared it to the Anthony Chapel we had previously seen. After leaving the chapel, we went into the city’s historic loop, Kings Highway, also known as Ojo and Summit and about 10 other names, in true Eureka Springs fashion. Home to only three chain restaurants, the city prides itself in keeping it’s commercial culture untainted by chain food. Such an autonomy has preserved the city as the old town it used to be.
The Crescent Hotel is one of the buildings of the town that has stood the test of time as it still towers over Eureka Springs.
Although the winding roads were scary for some of us, the visit to this historical hotel was the scariest part of the tour. Seated high above “Mysterious” Valley, the hotel is supposedly the most haunted hotel in the country. In 1886 the Hotel was opened at a resort for the wealthy to vacation. Since then, it has changed ownership many times. It served as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women at one point; at another point, a scam artist took over, making it into a fraudulent cancer hospital.
With this history, it’s no wonder that some guests have reported supernatural experiences. For example, each night between 12-3 am a women dressed in white has been reported to fall from the third story balcony. The story goes that during the hotel’s time as a College and Conservatory, a young woman committed suicide after she learned of her pregnancy, which was frowned upon during her time. Today, this is just one of the stories that tour guides tell visitors from all over the country during the many ghost tours given daily.
After a stop full of fascinating stories (some believable and some not so much) we boarded the bus to visit many of the springs from which the city is rightfully named.
Last week, we visited Hot Springs, Arkansas to learn about the bath houses and natural spring waters. This week, in Eureka Springs, we learned the waters are similar except for one major difference, the temperature! Eureka Springs consists of cold spring fed waters that are much more refreshing than the hot springs whose water is always 100+ degrees. While visiting at least four of the springs (the city is home to many more) our tour guide kindly narrated interesting stories that caught our attention like the reason why doing laundry at the Laundry Spring is now a misdemeanor crime.
We learned that the way to spot a spring is to look out for a garden. The tenants of the springs would plant gardens outside to make their cave more home like. We also toured downtown Eureka Springs, which lies partially underground in the tunnel system that benefits the city by adding additional real estate for the tourist shops and restaurants.
Because the city lies within the northwest Arkansas hills, the streets are extremely winding and occasionally bumpy. This created many strange angles for real estate, but it is also a symbol of Eureka Spring’s unique style. We stopped for a few quick photo opportunities and to admire the view one last time before closing our tour.
Many thanks to Mr. John Thomas of Eureka Van Tours for an energetic, informative, and jam-packed tour of Eureka Springs! Following our informative tour, we headed downtown for a quick lunch at Mud Street Café. This cafe was built in 1888 under the city’s surface. The venue’s name originates from the very street on which it was built. Because of the dirt roads and underground spring, floods were habitual and caused the street to become muddy. The cafe had original limestone walls, oak tables, and Victorian carpet making it exclusive. Orders around the table varied. Megan ordered the Cajun wrap and others ordered a variety of burgers and sandwiches. We even sampled the crème sodas and the coffee with peppermint schnapps!
The food and drinks were delicious, leaving some of us a little drowsy. We managed to fight our sleepiness because we wanted to check out the small shops along the historic downtown Eureka.
With menacing rain clouds forming in the sky, we hurriedly boarded our van ready to drive towards Bentonville.
Crystal Bridges Written by: Beatriz Martinez, and Karla Rosales
Upon arrival, the pitter patter of the raindrops on our heads hurried us into the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. We navigated through the halls in order to reach our tour guide. We eagerly waited for out tour to start because we all knew that we were about to explore another of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces; the Bachman-Wilson home.
Similar to the Kraus house we had visited in St. Louis, the Bachman-Wilson home was designed as a Usonian-style home. Derived from the abbreviation of “United States of North America”, this form of organic architecture was invented by Wright to create homes that would be compatible with nature and stand alone as American without other influences. The original owners of the home were Gloria and Abraham Wilson. Having seen the Shavin house, they implored for Mr. Wright to make them a home of their own. After continuous requests to Wright, one day the Wilsons received a telegram saying, “I suppose I am still here to do houses for such as you.”
Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes are well-known for their small, yet comfortable size; compression and expansion of spaces; radiant heat; and clerestory patterns (this one being of a Samara design).
The home was originally built along the Millstone River in New Jersey during the year of 1956, however, after the Wilson’s divorce a year later they decided to sell their home which led to a series of events that ends with the home finding its home at Crystal Bridges. Unfortunately, the location on which the house had been built suffered from the problem of flooding. At one point, the home was 6 feet underwater!
Lawrence and Sharon Tarantino bought the home in 1988. Recognizing the worth of this wonderful home, they decided to sell it to an institution that would preserve and relocate it to a place where it would not be harmed. Interestingly enough, the blueprints of the building were tracked down and unearthed. The endeavor was a tedious task, one that required the home to be taken apart piece-by-piece, individually marked, and bubble wrapped, and transported to its new location.
Although the home wasn’t built at Crystal Bridges, our tour guide argues that it was destined for the site, as it exemplifies the type of architecture of Crystal Bridges (designed by Moshe Safdie) and that of Arkansas’s most famous architect, E. Fay Jones.
Enjoying the work of one of America’s most renowned architects, we continued on inside to take a look at the other forms of American art that Crystal Bridges had to offer.
The first exhibit in the museum displayed colonial to mid-nineteenth century American art titled “From the Colonies to the Civil War”. The time frame begins in 1621 when Mayflower pilgrims found Plymouth colony to 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected president. This exhibit displayed a lot of portraits painted in oil on canvas. In that same mid-nineteenth century we got to see artwork by Roxy Paine called “Bad Lawn;” it is a plant sculpture formed from industrial materials that was then painted by hand.
This work, “Bad Lawn,” is very different than her typical stainless steel structures, but like her other work, it is designed to make viewers reconsider their relationship with nature. To emphasize this point, the Curator at Crystal Bridges placed the work in the same room as many of the 19th century’s foremost nature painters: Asher Durand, Thomas Moran, Tom Cole, and Albert Bierstadt.
Then we moved on to Professor Yawn’s favorite exhibit, late nineteenth-century art titled “American Art Flourishes at Home and Abroad.” The time frame for this exhibit ranged from the Civil War to the founding of the NAACP in the early 1900’s. The exhibit displayed an abundance of landscape paintings because landscape painters were interacting with the outdoors and celebrating the natural world.
A key example of this art is Harriet Whitney Frishmuth’s “The Bubble,” in which she pictures a model dancing with an orb.
Before the 20th century exhibit, we stopped to see a small exhibit called “Reel Women, Icons and Identity in Film” which displayed photography of popular actresses during the Golden Age of Hollywood between 1930 and 1960. The 20th century exhibit titled “Depicting Change in a Modern World” displayed great events in history the like the roaring twenties in America, the Great Depression, and World War II. The art in this exhibit was much more modern and colorful.
In this exhibit, Karla found her favorite piece of art by artist Stanton Macdonald-Wright titled “Au Cafe.”
At first it appears to be simply abstraction, but as you look closer you can see the artist with his wife drinking a martini depicted in colorful shapes. The final exhibit was 1940’s to Now, it displayed a timeline of important events during this time frame. Amazingly, we have visited many of the places where these important events took place.
Two pieces of art that made some students cringe and others awe at the realistic figures were pieces of hyperrealism by Evan Penny and Duane Hanson. Penny’s work was a self-portrait, titled “Old Self,” and it was indeed very realistic.
We were fascinated by the detail that Penny put into the piece; indeed, some of us were even started as we entered the room, thinking that it was a real person we were seeing.
Duane Hanson’s “Man on Bench” was just as realistic, but more sad.
It was very interesting how the sculptures looked so realistic!
Another piece that captured the interest of all of us was the “Untitled” piece by Felix Gonzalez Torres that invited us to not only touch, but eat a piece of the art!
After making additional stops to see a Picasso…
…Thomas Hart Benton…
…and Andy Warhol…
…we headed outside to see the sculpture garden.
Here, we posed for a photo next to Robert Indiana’s “LOVE,” which we’ve seen in several locations.
Another sculptor we have seen much of is Louise Bourgeois and Crystal Bridges has a particularly fine sculpture by her, “Maman,” meaning “mommy.” “Maman,” like many of her sculptures, is a spider, this one carrying 20 eggs.
We were especially interested in a sculpture by James Turrell called “The Way of Color.” it is made with stone, concrete stainless steel, and LED lights. The lights inside the sculpture change color as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night. Luckily, we got there right at sunset and were able to view the different colors!
Walking around and through the museum was a timeless journey. The students loved being able to chronologically view the art and watch it change over the decades and adapt to its time. Some of us loved walking into an exhibit and immediately recognizing pieces by artists such as Lichtenstein, Georgia O’Keeffe, Gilbert Stewart, Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell.
Even though it seemed like a timeless journey, once we looked at our watches it was a little past 9 PM, so we knew that our dinning options would be limited.
The Foxhole was our dinner destination and we were excited to eat after a long day of exploring. As one of the highest rated places to eat in Bentonville, we were intrigued by what awaited us. They offered a twist on the Korean dish “Steam Buns.” The group was split on the food, with a majority liking them very much, being particularly impressed by the tender and flavorful meat, which one newspaper described as a “flavor-forward, hand-held entree” that “really shine(s).” We also enjoyed the homemade creme sodas, the chips and aioli dip. After sipping down the little bit of soda left in our glasses, we all gathered into the van and made our way back to the comfort of our hotel for a good nights rest to energize us for our law class in the morning!
It was the final day of our trip, and we wanted it to count as much as the previous days.
We began with a quick walk around the French Quarter, checking out the shops, restaurants, art galleries, all the things you don’t see in our home towns. We then went to the New Orleans City Park, which houses the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Besthoff Sculpture Garden. It’s a wonderful city park, with jogging trails, playing fields, large oak trees, botanical gardens, a kids’ section, a mini-railway, a lake, and waterways.
We explored the whole park briefly, then tackled the sculpture garden, which was beautiful and wonderfully interactive.
Interestingly, we saw art works by artists we had seen on other parts of our trip and on other trips. One of the first sculptures we saw, for example, was a totem by Jesus Moroles…
…we had seen his work in Birmingham, at UT when we traveled there in June, and of course at our own University, SHSU. But we don’t know a lot about art, so it’s an interesting find when we come across art we do know.
We also saw the “Blue Dog” by George Rodrigue, whose gallery we had seen the night before in New Orleans.
And we saw Robert Indiana’s famous “LOVE” sculpture, which inspired The Beatles to write, “All you need is love.”
…similar to one we had also seen at the University of Texas. Interestingly, when we drove around the Garden District, we saw one in someone’s front lawn! One of these pieces costs about $219,000, or about the cost of a nice home in Huntsville, Texas.
We also saw a piece by famous Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. This one was called “Overflow”….
…but it is very similar to the set of sculptures he has around Buffalo Bayou in Houston, called “Tolerance.” Plemsa also did the “Crown Fountain” at Millennium Park.
Finally, we saw work by Louise Bourgeois, who is famous for her large spiders.
In passing, we saw works by Henry Moore, Rodin, George Segal, Anish Kapoor (who did “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park) and Paul Manship. It was a fun and educational morning, and much more fun than a typical sculpture garden!
Following the art garden, we booked it back to the French Quarter and visited the market. We mostly went our own ways, shopping and having lunch.
None of the food we tried really stood out, but it was functional and allowed us to maximize our time looking at shops and such, along with a final picture of Jackson Square.
With a sad goodbye, we turned our back on New Orleans…
…and headed back to Huntsville–via Baton Rouge.
In Baton Rouge, we visited our fourth state capitol building of the trip. Amazingly, we (the students) had only visited the Texas capitol, so we each increased our total numbers of capitols visited by a factor of five!
The Louisiana Capitol isn’t the prettiest one in the country, but it is the tallest.
It also is historically interesting. Besides sitting beside the Mississippi…
…it is the location of the Huey Long assassination. There is a small exhibit on the first floor marking the site of the assassination, along with some basic facts. One interesting item is that they aren’t entirely sure that the “assassin” killed Long. The Senator’s bodyguards fired dozens of bullets at the assassin, and it’s at least possible one of them killed the governor. One of the bullet holes is still visible in one of the marble columns.
The capitol building has beautiful chambers for the House and Senate…
…and also has an observation deck on the 27th floor…
…which allows for good views of the aforementioned Mississippi, the armory, and the gardens.
This 360 degree view…
…was a fitting conclusion to a trip that gave us a similarly panoramic view of the south, its culture, and its politics.