Talking History with Stephen Harrigan

by Brian Aldaco

Not long ago, the LEAP Ambassadors traveled to Austin, TX, and interviewed Best Selling Author, Stephen Harrigan, which Michael Foster’s wonderful crew turned into video trailer for Let’s Talk.

Already having a relationship with Harrigan and knowing much about him, we were looking forward to visiting with him again.

The Ambassadors, along with bright students interested in hearing from Mr. Harrigan, gathered at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Holcombe Room. With a wonderful top-floor view of campus, we shared and insightful conversation with Mr. Harrigan. We were familiar with his Texas Historical Fiction works and were already amazed by his writing.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Stephen Harrigan, Gates of the Alamo

However, his latest project had us all captivated; a multi-volume collection of Texas’s History commissioned by UT Press.  The book isn’t yet out–in April he was working on the 1970s and 1980s–but UT Press did release what amounts to a preview of the book, “They Came From the Sky.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Stephen Harrigan, Gates of the Alamo, They Came From the Sky

Through our conversation we were granted a glimpse of the amazing stories of our state’s past this new project will include. From comical anecdotes, like Eastland’s Old RIP, to the tragedies that have also shaped Texas, such as Charles Whitman’s UT shooting, Mr. Harrigan provided an in-depth overview of some of the most interesting events throughout the years.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Stephen Harrigan, Gates of the Alamo

Our now fully accomplished guest also shared his reputation-building experience from when he was a young writer in Austin. He mentioned that when he sent his first article proposal, he was amazed when the magazine publishers accepted it. Although he was shocked, he eventually wrote his article and a month later received his first writing pay-check from none other than “Rolling Stone.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Stephen Harrigan, Gates of the Alamo

We were all thankful that we got a chance to speak with Mr. Harrigan. After we finished our conversation, we grabbed our copies of his latest publication “They Came from the Sky” (a preview of his soon to come history of Texas) and asked for the author’s autograph. The LEAPsters will wait in anticipation for his epic publication , but there was no need to say a definite goodbye to Mr. Harrigan as we would see him later that day at SHSU’s Let’s Talk.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Stephen Harrigan, Gates of the Alamo

LEAP Ambassadors Explore Art, History, & Literature in Austin

It’s not often students can take off in the middle of a week, keep up with their assignments and, at the same time, learn a whole lot outside of the classroom.  But that’s exactly what happened with six students who took a two-day LEAP Center trip to Austin.

It may only have been two days, but it was jam-packed with learning, including engagement with Mass Communication, Texas History, Literature, Politics, Management, Art, and even architecture!

Bob Bullock by Chase Kenemmer

            The learning began with the Bullock History Museum, which is an extraordinary history exhibit in the state of Texas, dedicated to the history of Texas, and the progression the state has undergone.  When we first entered the museum the sense of awe swept over the group; we could feel the history come to life as we entered through the giant doorways. The museum was packed with children and adults for a special “Home School” day, as we were corralled through the opening to the first floor. We were greeted by the immense remnants of the French naval ship “la Belle” that sunk as French colonists tried to settle in an uncharted region of Texas.

Flash-forward to the next floor, we see the history come to life as actors described the stories of Mexican President, Santa Anna, flooding the State of Texas with his army, the fall of the Alamo, and the victorious battle of San Jacinto led by General Sam Houston.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

As we transition through the rooms, we see the Texas History woven into American History; the Annexation of Texas. There is a brief pause in between the Reconstruction Era and the Modern, we can see the Goddess of Liberty, which sits upon the Texas Capital building to guide her people into the modern era.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

We also had a chance to learn more about Sam Houston…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

…Reconstruction…SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

..and even had a chance to see some cowboy roping take place!

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin, Bob Bullock Museum

Interview with Stephen Harrigan by Chase Kenemmer

It’s not every day a Sam Houston student gets to help interview a famous Texan author, but today Beatriz and I both took time out to help Professor Yawn and Michael Foster interview and film author Stephen Harrigan.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

Professor Yawn talked with Mr. Harrigan, while Beatriz and I worked with Mr. Michael Foster, the Sam Houston’s Video Producer, to fix the lighting and block out the green dull light. He showed us that putting a thin blue cover over the light will naturally even the lighting to what we needed. We helped put the mic on Mr. Harrigan, and the interview began.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

The interview lasted about an hour long and we learned interesting things about Mr. Harrigan’s new work, some interesting history facts, and what we can expect at Sam Houston’s Honors College event “Let’s Talk”; where Mr. Harrigan will sit and talk about his work as an author and screenplay writer. Towards the end of the interview, we discussed the exciting process of writing a book, and the skills it takes to become a writer.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

Both Beatriz and I learned that it takes a special skill to record and produce videos, as well as writing and publishing books.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, Stephen Harrigan

New World Deli Lunch by Christina Perez

Before heading to the students favorite Austin art gallery, we headed over to grab a quick lunch. They decided to try Stephanie’s suggestion of New World Deli. The deli was in the heart of the city. Open since 1997, the cozy family owned restaurant is known for its excellent soups, sandwiches, and salads.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Austin TX, ATX, New World Deli

They ordered some of the house favorites like their “Award Winning” Reuben and their broccoli cheese and tomato basil soups. The restaurant had a lot of different art on the wall and opened conversation about art appreciation. This made us excited for the next part of our day!

Daniel Arredondo Studio and the Shoal Creek Gallery by Sawyer Massie

After lunch, we all hurried into the front lobby of the Shoals Creek Art Gallery to escape the brisk winter breeze. Immediately, the famous pieces by James Surls gallantly presented themselves on three of the four walls of the room.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, James Surls

While marveling at the beautiful displays of modernist artistry could have taken all of our allotted time, Professor Yawn eagerly escorted us to the studio of Mr. Daniel Arredondo.  We stared in admiration at the entire walls and floors that were lined with painted cigar boxes and impressionist landscapes on canvas. Mr. Arredondo recognized Professor Yawn and his face lit up as he excitedly greeted every newcomer as a friend.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

Most of our time was spent learning about Mr. Arredondo’s latest works and about his previous career as an assembly-line worker for IBM. He explained that many of his works that involved trees with visible roots beneath the horizon represented people and their deepest secrets.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

One thing that remained constant, however, was his enthusiastic and wholesome outlook on life and work. Many of us left his studio with gifts that he painted because, “anyone who comes to my studio and listens to me talk shouldn’t leave empty-handed.”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

With smiles on our faces and beautiful works of art in hand, we continued on our tour of the rest of the gallery. This took us to an exhibit on Lorena Morales, a Houston based artist which included the intricate translucent pipe sculptures of varying shapes and colors. Some pieces included a row of piping hung on the wall while others were stood alone and rested on the ground. Most interesting, however, was the message of perspective behind these works and how standing in a certain place could change the entire aesthetic of the piece. In the back of the gallery was a smaller exhibit that included colorful pieces of varying art styles and artists.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors

There, we observed all of the motifs and styles of the different artists and discussed what we enjoyed about each piece. It is safe to say that each of us left with a newer appreciation of art and expression.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Daniel Arredondo Art

Harry Ransom Center and James Turrell Skyspace by Christina

            We made a quick stop was to see the Gutenberg Bible at the Harry Ransom Center. One of the first printed books, there are only around 40 existing today in the entire United States. It was impressive to learn that we had one in Texas and so close to Huntsville. We accidentally continued the art motif after by getting glitter coffee…

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors

…before heading over to the James Turrell Skyspace. The University of Texas at Austin has one the twelve Skyspaces open to visitors in the United States. The LEAP Ambassadors have visited about five Sky Spaces all together, but this time we brought some new friends along. As they walked into the Skyspace we could see the glowing faces of the first timers when they looked up at “The Color Inside.”  Tyara and Ilexus had never been to a Skyspace so this was a sure treat for them! “It was an eye-opening experience,” said Ilexus. The colors shifted from blues to grays and from pinks and purples.

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It is always very relaxing to sit through the show and wait for the sun to set completely. They were glad that their new friends enjoyed the experience and were happy to learn about a new type of art.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, James Turrell, UT Skyspace

Habesha Ethiopian Dinner by Beatriz

            As our last outing we went to go eat Ethiopian food in a restaurant. It was not a regular meal. Since most of us had not tried Ethiopian food, we ordered the Habesha Special Meat Combination Platter, that came with assorted meats to try.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, Habesha, Ethiopian Food

Although different than the regular cheeseburger and the use of injera bread as a utensil instead of a spoon or fork. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially when dessert time came around and “exotic” vanilla ice cream, tiramisu, and baklava. With special end, we headed back to our hotel, looking forward to getting a tour at the Capitol tomorrow.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassadors, James Turrell, Skyspace, UT Austin