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…

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

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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…

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…Tony Smith’s Moses…

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and other sculptures…

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

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

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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…

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…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.

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

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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…

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…and Piet Mondrian.

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…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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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

Riding Through Time With Jeff Guinn and Henry Ford

As the LEAP ambassadors’ research drew to a close, still more adventures await them on the road. Although the various activities we got to engage in on the way to Detroit were elucidating and interesting, the true focus of our trip was as stated previously, to help Jeff Guinn in researching the Vagabonds.

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For that effort, from Monday to Thursday, we followed the same routine; getting to the Henry Ford Museum’s research library around 9 a.m., researching for a few hours, getting lunch with Mr. Guinn and Mr. Fuquay, researching some more, and finally spending an hour touring the museum or the adjacent Greenfield Village.

This was a phenomenal opportunity to see a best-selling author in the research environment. Additionally, we got to hear many stories and see many amazing artifacts.

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Research

One highlight was being taken back into the conservation section of the Henry Ford, where we were shown a Lincoln refrigerated truck that was being restored.

1922 Car Used by Vagabonds
1922 Car Used by Vagabonds

Incredibly, this was the very refrigerated truck that Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and Thomas Edison had taken along with them on a few of their camping trips! We got to stand next to real history, and see how the team of the Henry Ford is working to preserve and restore such artifacts for future generations to enjoy.

Henry Ford Museum, Conservation

Another special treat was being able to help Jeff Guinn pick out pictures for his book from the Henry Ford’s digital collection.

The Vagabonds, Beson Ford Research Center, Jeff Guinn
Reviewing Vagabonds Photographs for Mr. Guinn’s Book

We sat down and looked through 231 pictures, narrowing these down to about 40. Mr. Guinn will look through other sources before settling on which ones he wants to see appear in the book. At that point, the marketing team for Simon & Schuster, Mr. Guinn’s publisher, will dissect his choices, and they will make the final decisions.

During our breaks, where we could wander freely in the museums. Following our first day, which we spent focusing primarily on the Beatles Exhibit and automobiles in the Henry Ford Museum, we spent the last couple of days looking over planes, civil rights exhibits, Americana, and even furniture.


Henry Ford Museum

But this was no ordinary furniture; many of the pieces were owned by highly accomplished gentlemen. We saw a desk used by Edgar Allen Poe for most of his adult life, for example. It is possible that some of the stories and poems that are so loved today, like “The Raven,” “The Telltale Heart,” or “The Pit and the Pendulum,” were scribed at this very desk.

Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Ford Museum, Writing Desk
Edgar Allan Poe’s Writing Desk

We also got to see John Hancock’s card table and Mark Twain’s writing table!

Mark Twain, Writing Desk, Henry Ford Museum
Mark Twin Portrait & Writing Table

In the planes section, the Museum had a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane…

Wright Brothers, Henry Ford Museum, Kitty Hawk
Replica of Wright Brothers’ Plane

…and a little known Ford plane, which never really proved successful commercially.

Ford Plane, Henry Ford Museum
Ford Company’s Unsuccessful Plane

In the Americana section, they had a copy of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”….

Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Henry Ford Museum
Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense”

… and the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was sitting when he was assassinated.

Abraham Lincoln, Assassination, Ford Theater, Henry Ford Museum
The Abraham Lincoln from Ford Theater

As the above suggests, some of the artifacts were unusual, even unsettling.

On a more inspirational level, the Museum had the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to take a back seat, both literally and metaphorically.

Rosa Parks, Bus, Segregation, Henry Ford Museum
The Bus on Which Rosa Parks Refused to Take a Back Seat

Amazingly, people were even allowed to sit in the seat she refused to relinquish.  The Museum also had guidelines of the “Montgomery Improvement Association” (led by Martin Luther King, Jr.) distributed to African Americans which helped them stand for their rights without putting themselves or others in undue danger.

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Wrapping Up

Finally though, Thursday afternoon rolled around, and our time at the Henry Ford drew to a close. We said our goodbyes to Jeff Guinn and Jim Fuquay while thanking them for giving us the opportunity to work with them for a week.

L-R: Jim Fuquay, Brian Aldaco, Jeff Guinn, Paul Oliver
L-R: Jim Fuquay, Brian Aldaco, Jeff Guinn, Paul Oliver

Besides being a great researcher and a great teacher, he is a very personable and amiable man, who really does love his work. The joy he takes in his research is reflected in both his books and in his interactions with others. After spending a week with Jeff Guinn, you can’t help but be interested in whatever subject he’s writing about!

Jeff Guinn and Paul Oliver
Jeff Guinn and Paul Oliver

 

The Vagabonds: Ford, Edison, Firestone, Burroughs, Harding, Coolidge

Adventure is to LEAP trips what innovation is to Henry Ford, a process waiting to happen with unexpected ways of achieving it. During today’s visit of the Henry Ford research center and museum, we continued on our Vagabond quest, a three-part odyssey that includes: (1) to assist Mr. Jeff Guinn with research on the Vagabonds, (2) to learn as much as possible about the research process, and, (3) when possible, supplement our academic learning with additional learning from the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.


“The Vagabonds” Project

Our project is to assist Mr. Jeff Guinn, who has written almost twenty books over his career.  Although Guinn uses a professional research (Jim Fuquay), he invited us to give us the opportunity to learn by doing and observing.

Jim Fuquay and Jeff Guinn
                                                                                                            Jim Fuquay and Jeff Guinn

His current book project is on “The Vagabonds,” a group that consisted of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, John Burroughs, and, later, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge.  These men gathered once a year to travel parts of the country while camping.

Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, Harvey Firestone
             L-R: Ford, Edison, Burroughs, Firestone

Our research primarily took place at the Benson Ford Research Center, which has some 26 million artifacts, all but one million of which are paper documents.  Mr. Guinn assigned us several tasks:

  • itemizing the Vagabonds’ itineraries across the period 1915-1924;
  • itemizing Mr. Ford’s major achievements;
  • reviewing Mr. Ford’s newspapers, The Dearborn Independent
The Vagabonds
                          Paul Oliver, Ryan Brim, and Brian Aldaco Researching

To complete these tasks, we had the run of the archives, which included a library, endless storage space, and the Museum itself, which had its own artifacts on display.  We made use of all three.


Henry Ford Museum

But we also had a chance to break and enjoy free time, which doubled as a foundational education to both Ford and American history.  In the Ford Museum, for example, there are wings for the history of the automobile (including buses), the locomotive transportation, air transportation, civil rights, furniture, clocks, and electronic devices in the home.  It was a massive museum.

In the automotive section, for example, we were able to see Ford’s first vehicle, the “Quadricycle” of 1996.

Henry Ford, Quadricycle
                                                                                    Ford’s Quadricycle

We also saw the famous Model T, the speed-setting “Goldenrod”….

The Goldenrod, Henry Ford Museum, Land Speed Record
                                     “The Goldenrod,” Holder of the Land Speed Record from 1966-1991

…and plethoric presidential limousines, including those that used by Teddy Roosevelt…

Teddy Roosevelt, Brougham, Henry Ford Museum
                                           Teddy Roosevelt’s Presidential “Limousine,” the Brougham

…FDR…

FDR's Presidential Limousine, Henry Ford Museum

…John F. Kennedy, which was used for 11 years after his death…

John F. Kennedy Presidential Limousine, Henry Ford Museum
                                            The Limousine in Which Kennedy was Assassinated

…and Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan, Presidential Limousine, Henry Ford Museum

Interestingly, while on the trip, John Hinckley was released from his court-mandated asylum-cum-prison.  When he shot at Reagan, one of the bullets hit the limo, ricocheted off, and hit President Reagan under the arm.  It was a timely trip in many ways.

We also had a chance to see a special exhibit on The Beatles.

The Beatles, Henry Ford Museum
                                                                                           The Beatles

It included authentic memorabilia, original instruments and cases, music samples…

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…and even a section where you can become a Beatle.

The Beatles' Exhibit, Henry Ford Museum
         The Beatles, 2016: Yawn, Aldaco, Oliver, Brim (note: Ryan’s hairdo is more or less the same)

We advantageously stuck our heads through the opening of the exhibit and in between the Beatles’ mannequins and wigs, ready to take the very amusing photograph. Although small, this temporary exhibit was well put together and informative by capturing the rise of the Beatles, along with their overwhelming fame, innovative methods of recording music, and legendary status.

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Next to The Beatles’ exhibit was the Dymaxion House, the house of the future from the late 1940s. The lightweight aluminum circular house with its own rainwater collection system, a downdraft air system, and the ability to withstand high speed winds was designed by architect Buckminster Fuller. It is the last remaining model of two total units, which Fuller hoped would become the all-American home.


Research

The exhibits were educational, but so was the research.  On one afternoon, for example, we had the chance to sit in on an interview Mr. Guinn conducted with Bob Casey, the former curator of automobiles for the Henry Ford Museum. He was immensely generous and helpful, sharing insights from his many years with the Museum.

Such generosity was the norm.  Mr. Guinn generously invited us to accompany him on this research trip, the Research Center staff were professional, generous and knowledgeable, and the people with whom we met went above and beyond their duties.  It was a learning experience not only for the factual knowledge we gained, but also for the ability to witness the professional norms of the research and Museum business.

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Greenfield VIllage

Late in the afternoon, we also had a chance to explore Greenfield Village. Our first stop there was the Model-T station, where we could hop onto an authentic Model-T!

Model T, Greenfield Village, Henry Ford Museum
                                             Brian and Ryan (B-Ryan) Enjoy a Model T Ride

Brian and Ryan got on first and drove off merrily, while Prof. Yawn and Paul waited for the next one. The latter pair got to ride in a 1914 Model-T.

Greenfield Village, Model T Ford, Henry Ford Museum
                                      Driver and Paul Oliver Discuss the Model T and Avoid Oncoming Traffic

The driver was extremely helpful and full of fascinating information. For instance, she explained that one way to distinguish a 1914 was to note the brass used in its design. After 1917, brass was no longer used on the exterior because it was needed for the American war effort in the First World War. She also told us that the Model-T was designed to be the “universal car,” designed to compete with the horse and buggy as opposed to other motor companies. This was a good sales strategy until the outdated Model-T started to slide the way of the horse and buggy as a transportation relic!  Although, it should be noted that despite the Model T falling out of fashion, the machines did not stop working.  Indeed, one of the cars on which we rode had more than one million miles on it!

Following our Model-T ride, we went our separate ways, each exploring a different part of the village. Paul returned to the frozen custard place for a second go at the delicious dessert before wandering aimlessly down to the “Porches & Parlors” district of Greenfield Village. In true tycoon style, Henry Ford would arrange for various houses or buildings that interested him to be purchased and placed in Greenfield Village. This undertaking, and the subsequent efforts of the Henry Ford Museum to continue this tradition, have left the village as an eclectic hodgepodge of American history. In the part that Paul wandered through, he saw the home of Noah Webster, creator of the first American dictionary, and a home owned by the great poet Robert Frost.

In the tradition of taking the road less traveled, Paul continued on to see some of the slave quarters from the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, as well as the cabin of George Washington Carver. His longest stop was at the Daggett Farmhouse, which is an authentic edifice from 1760, originally located in Connecticut. The owner was a dilettante in the extreme, being a butcher, a carpenter, a farmer, and a home-builder all-in-one!

Meanwhile Ryan and Brian boarded an authentic steam engine train on Firestone Station. From there they toured through the perimeter of the Village, trailing through homes and warehouses of nearly every time period in American history. With the clickitty-clack of the track and the roaring whistle of the engine, the locomotive ride provided an authentic sensual experience for what a trip in such a machine would feel like during the 1800s. But after completing the full circuit, as the last ride of the day, with great sorrow we saw the Village and Museum close for the day.

Greenfield Village, Henry Ford Museum
                                                             Greenfield Village Train Ride

We then left the grounds en route to meet with Mr. Fuqua and Mr. Guinn for dinner.


Dinner: Lue Thai Cafe

After the short drive to Dearborn we met for dinner at a place called the Lue Thai Cafe. We had the crispy rolls, followed by huge entrees of Thai food. Paul had the peanut noodles, Ryan had the udon noodles, and Brian the jub chai, not knowing what to expect from this foreign cuisine. Over dinner, Mr. Guinn and Mr. Fuqua lamented the current cost of college tuition (a subject dear to Brian and Paul), while comparing to the “back in the day” cost. They also regaled us with tales from their time working at the Fort Worth Star Telegram. With plates half empty, for even though we very much enjoyed the spicy taste of thai there was no more that would could take from the bountiful serving, we departed with a “see you later” and went back to our hotel. Both of these men really are chock-full of great stories, and it is a pleasure to be able to work with them for a week!

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Our Kind of Town–Chicago

On our Sunday Chicago adventure, the LEAP Ambassadors continued on the path of artistic enlightenment by visiting the Chicago Institute of Art and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie Home. This as part of our Vagabond Research Trip which would lead us our first meeting with New York Times bestseller author Jeff Guinn, which we would soon meet with in Dearborn, Michigan. However, to shake off our morning drowsiness we climbed up Willis Tower to hover over Chicago in the skyscraper’s Skydeck.


Willis Tower Skydeck–by Brian Aldaco

Upon entrance of the tower, with grounded pillars exposed so as to view the building’s essential elements to its prominent stature, we  joined the crowed who anxiously await the hundred-and-three-story ascent to the glass viewing enclosure. Huddled inside the elevator we arrived at our floor of destination after a minute long ride (the same climb which takes ninety seconds to complete during windy weather). At the top of the 1,730 ft building, a size comparable to 283 vertical Barack Obamas, the view of the Windy City was breathtaking.

Willis Tower, Skydeck
Chicago Skyline from Skydeck at Willis Tower

Whether this was caused by the vista from the clouds or the vertigo of being on their level, our hearts were firmly set on forcing our bodies to step over the ledge onto the clear-glass viewing deck. Suspended over the city, with feet seemingly floating over the ground, sweaty palms, and throbbing heads nervous about the deck’s ability to keep us safely enclosed…

The LEAP Guys on the Skydeck
The LEAP Guys on the Skydeck

…Professor Yawn wisely suggested that we create a photo-op by jumping upon the skydeck.  This turned out to be more fun than dangerous, but ultimately futile as a photo-op because the skydeck photographers couldn’t time the photos correctly.


Art Institute of Chicago, by Brian Aldaco and Paul Oliver

Having experienced our elevated adventure, our next stop was the Art Institute of Chicago; a sprawling, labyrinthine art museum that contained art from a myraid of different cultures and ages.

Art Institute of Chicago
Paul Plans his Route in the Art Institute of Chicago

We had the opportunity to see several famous pieces, such as Grant Wood’s American Gothic…

Grant Wood, American Gothic, Art Institute of Chicago
American Gothic, by Grant Wood

Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, and of course, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.

 After viewing Nighthawks together…

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…we went our separate ways. Paul traveled back in time to Ancient Greece and Rome, looking at the Roman statuary, Greek pottery, and Byzantine pieces on display. Of special note in this section was a Roman reproduction of the Aphrodite of Knidos. The original Aphrodite was a Greek statue, and it was contentious in its time, for it was the first instance of a goddess being depicted in the nude. Also of interest were the Greek amphoras, kylixes, and other pottery pieces. The amphora is a larger container that presents a larger space for the artist, whereas the kylix is a smaller, but broad object, that was used as a wine goblet. The amount of wine that could be held by a kylix looks substantial, but the Greeks believed it to be a mark of the barbarian to drink wine unmixed. Therefore, they would add water to it, which perhaps justifies the size of the kylixes. The pottery itself takes two styles generally; black figure and red figure. The color refers to what hue the people depicted are, so on a black figure amphora, the heroes or gods represented are black, and the background is red. The reverse is true for a red figure work. Paul also went to see the Medieval Arms & Armor section, but unfortunately it was not open yet!

Simultaneously on the Modern Wing of the museum, Professor Yawn, Brian Aldaco, and Ryan Brim viewed multiple works from artists of diverse periods in art history. The turn of 20th century was captured by works of artists such as Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and James Whistler, the latter of whom helped usher in impressionism in the United States.

James Whistler's Nocturne, Art Institute of Chicago
James Whistler’s “Nocturne–Blue and Gold”

In further floors we also viewed works from Great Depression artists such as Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and Edward Hopper whose desire to capture everyday rural and urban American life was astonishing. We also attempted to study the abstractions and surrealism behind the works of Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte, and Pablo Picasso.

Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, Art Institute of Chicago
Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”

To further strain our left analytic hemisphere, we viewed the works of conceptual artists such as Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and other contemporary artists.

Jackson Pollock, Number 17A, Art Institute of Chicago
Jackson Pollock’s “Number 17A”

Millennium Park, by Brian Aldaco

Having completed our journey through a century’s worth of art, we joined the pedestrian throng towards Millennium Park. As we passed Jaume Plensa’s Crowne Fountain, where happy children frolicked under the spewing gush of water (which shot from the mouths of the fountain’s face-depicting pillars); its refreshing spray was welcoming against the city’s heat. Going along the park we found its signature Cloud Gate sculpture, most commonly known as “The Bean.” With its mirror image of the surrounding skyline which warped as the rounded angles revolved around the sculpture, we neared it’s metal surface and seemingly became part of the picturesque vista. Soon after taking a couple of pictures of us LEAPing by the sculpture…

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…we ordered a Chicago-style hotdog at a nearby stand. Thus, we lunched in true Chicago style over the city’s patrimonial treasure.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s “The Robie House,” by Ryan Brim

After some the authentic Chicago-style hot dogs in Millennium Park, we headed over to the campus of the University of Chicago, where we toured the Robie House, built by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1909. Like many of his other homes, Wright built the prairie style house by accentuating long horizontal lines to draw one’s eye across the house.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House, Chicago, Prairie Style
Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Robie House”

Before we entered the front door, we were met with a low ceiling that was similar in height and in material to the one just inside the greeting area. This created a sort of transition space that allows a guest to have a seamless transition between the outside and inside. Once we went up the stairs to the main living area and dining area, the ceiling became taller, and the room brighter. This is another one of his techniques called “compress and release,” forcing people out of the dimly-lit greeting area and into the bright living space. Although there are no doors separating the dining and living areas, there is a fireplace that breaks up the two spaces.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House
Living Area in “The Robie House”

Mr. Wright believed that there should be as few enclosed rooms in a house as possible, so he made an opening at the top of the fireplace so that someone in one room could see the continuing ceiling across the whole floor. He did this by diverting the smoke into two separate chimneys, leaving the middle open from obstruction. There were also many windows and French doors all along the room connecting the exterior with the interior and making the room seem much bigger. In the dining area, there would have been a dining table with pillars as legs extending above its surface on which one could set lights. Similarly the table was fashioned with high backed chairs, so when people would eat dinner together there they would have sufficient lighting and the high chairs made the table seem to be a space within a space. On the third level were the bedrooms and bathrooms, each with natural lighting from many windows. The servants quarters and kitchen were on the second level, keeping them level with the rest of the family for according to Wright’s philosophy everyone was of equal worth. Just above the servant’s quarters was the car garage where the gift shop is today.


Moving On

After leaving the beautiful home, we made our way through Illinois and Indiana to finally reach Michigan. Somewhere along the state in need of a place to switch drivers and stretch our legs, we stopped at Coloma, Michigan, to go to the Chocolate Garden. The small business which specializes in chocolate truffles, according to one of the ladies working there, was started in 1998 as an online business. The eventual physical location was built in an old barn, but quickly expanded. Notably, the Chocolate Garden has been featured on the Food Network, which helped propel it to fame.

In addition to the Chocolate Garden’s wide assortment in chlorate truffles, it also has a “tasting bar.”

Chocolate Garden's Truffles at the Tasting Bar
Chocolate Garden’s Truffles at the Tasting Bar

It is here where for a small fee it is possible to taste up to three different types of these truffles of chocolatey delight. Professor Yawn lamented that the LEAP ladies were not along on this trip, as they surely would have enjoyed this stop. With this in mind, we joyously sampled the rich, delectable chocolate truffles. The “Darkest Dark” truffle and the “Vanilla Rose” were both exceptionally scrumptious. It was truly a must-stop for any chocolate aficionado and a tragedy that the ladies were not with us.

As we left, Professor Yawn, in a seemingly magnanimous gesture, proffered us a truffle he had purchased. Brian and Paul both took the sample from him and enjoyed the chocolate taste for a brief second.  As it turned out, though, the truffle was a “Cayenne Kick,” which packed a nasty spice that only becomes apparent after a few seconds. Needless to say, Professor Yawn got a kick out of our reactions.

After our sweet treat we continued on our trip where we eventually entered Dearborn ready to soothe our growling stomachs at Rex’s Golden Grill. With a diner menu of fish and chips and burgers, we were very much satisfied with the evening’s repast. It was so that we finished our Sunday evening in Dearborn, ready to start our first day of Vagabond research early in the morning.

Truman’s Terrain and the Land of Lincoln

Although our trip’s primary purpose is to assist Mr. Jeff Guinn with his research, our path to and from Detroit consists of various related (and otherwise educational) stops.  Today, the stops included the World War I Museum in Kansas City, the Capitol of Missouri in Jefferson City, and some historical sites in Springfield, IL.


World War I Museum

With a towering concrete edifice, the World War I Monument was recognized as the national commemorative memorial of the war’s destructive toll.

Liberty Tower, World War I Monument, World War I Museum, Kansas City
Liberty Tower, World War I Monument

Standing at the foot of the tower, we looked up to a blinding peak, which seemed to scratch the sun. With such an admiring sight, we found the elevator to climb the approximately ten-story structure. As we stepped onto the balcony of the memorial our sights were lost among the mesmerizing vista of Kansas City.

Kansas City, Skyline, Union Station, World War I Museum
Kansas City Skyline

Perched on our elevated vantage point, we spotted various spouting fountains riddled amidst the city, appropriately nicknamed the City of Fountains.

After descending the 90-year old elevator–a very cozy metal enclosure hanging over rickety wires-we returned to the ground. We then rendezvoused outside the memorial and returned inside the museum, ready to view the exhibits of diverse aspects of the Great War.

With a brief overview of the complexity of the war’s inception, composed of treaties and alliances among the European nations, we began the tour with relics of the nations’ emperors and rulers.

World War I Museum, Timeline, Kansas City
Paul Examines the World War I Timeline

Such antiquities included marksmanship trophies, luxurious smoking pipes and flasks, and  other royal artifacts. As we followed the museum’s exhibits we also viewed the different models of the combatant’s firearms with pistols and rifles from each of the European countries. This exhibit provided a sense of the period’s need for manufacturing, where each nation used its resources and laborers to mass produce their own firearms. Among the exhibits were showcased other aspects of the war which had not been experienced prior to the Great War, such as chemical warfare. With masks worn by these trench soldiers, grenades which contaminated the air with hazardous gas, and the spray of mustard gas which would burn the flesh of patriotic fighters, the atrocities witnessed in this war were unlike any other. Furthermore, the dugouts in which the military denizens took, what could loosely be termed, refuge, imposed a very deplorable, unsanitary, demoralizing lifestyle for the fighters of World War I. To further exhibit the effects of industrialization on war, there were also maquettes and life-size models of the war’s u-boats, primitive military air-crafts (some made out of cloth and wood!). and missiles.

WWI_Museum_Ryan_Paul_Missile_Web

Most notably, in the American campaign section of the museum, we found two modified Ford Model T’s which would have been used during the war.

Model T, Henry Ford, World War I, WWI Museum, Kansas City
Paul and Ryan Examine the War-Purposed Model T

Even though the war acted as a catalyst for the modern industrial culture and economy, it also began a new age of catastrophic war. No other showcased artifact was able to capture this horror than Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” which we listened to inside one of the museum’s powerful exhibits. It was this poem that spoke the truth of the war’s atrocious effects on the lives of those who died and survived World War I. After this reflective visit to the museum, we went back to our traveling mini-van and got back on the road in order to reach Jefferson City on time for our tour of Missouri’s Capital Building.


Jefferson City, Missouri’s Capital

After the two hour drive into Jefferson City, we hopped on an already-started capitol tour. Our tour began on the second floor, where there are sixteen murals done in a style called three point perspective, where, at different angles, objects in the painting seem to be altered. For example, in one mural depicting a civil war battle, Union forces look to be attacking, while Confederate forces are retreating, but, at another angle, the roles of the opposing sides seem to switch.

On this same level are the House and Senate chambers. On the house side, there is the House Lounge room, where Thomas Hart Benton, a native Missourian, painted a mural covering all of the walls.

Thomas Hart Benton, Missouri Capitol, House Lounge
Thomas Hart Benton’s Murals in the House Lounge

The murals depict the history of Missouri, both good and bad, from French traders and farmers trading with the natives, to the time of Tom Pendergast, also known as “Boss Tom” (seen in the mural above on the bottom right).

When Boss Tom was arrested on tax fraud and sent to prison, one senator snuck in at night and carved Pendergast’s prison number on the back of his suit. Other congressmen would put out their cigars and cigarettes on his face, and Mr. Benton had to come back years later to repair the mural.

All the faces in the murals are native Missourians, except for one: an Osage Native American who was living on a reserve in Kansas, since natives were removed from their lands in Missouri.

Interestingly and sadly, when Mormons settled in Missouri, they were hated by many, and the governor passed an executive order in 1838 to allow anyone to drive them off of their land by any means necessary, whether that be tar and feathering, burning their house, or murder.

Missouri_Capitol_Mural_Inset_Mormon_Web
Benton Depicts the Treatment of Mormons in Missouri’s Early History

On the third floor is a hall of famous Missourians, where busts of well-known natives of the state are featured. Two in particular—Emmet Kelley, a famous clown, and Stan Musial, a famous baseball player—are special in that, if you take a picture of them with the flash on, you see features not visible to the naked eye.  With Kelley, for example, you can see his clown makeup when photographed with a flash.

When Stan Musial is photographed with flash, the red “SL” on his cap is visible; without the flash, or by the naked eye, the SL is visible, but not in Cardinal red.

Also on this floor is the grand staircase, a huge staircase which leads from the grounds outside to the third floor, the largest bronze doors cast since the Roman Empire, and a 9,000 pound bronze chandelier suspended from the ceiling of the dome. Having finished the tour of one of the “most interactive capital buildings” (according to Brian Aldaco), our hunger was calling our attention.

Missouri's Capitol Dome
Missouri’s Capitol Rotunda

For lunch we went to a place called Arris, right next to the beautiful Missouri Capitol. Arris is a Greek pizzeria. Every pizza that they serve is named after a different figure from Greek mythology or history, including Achilles, Athena, Atlas, Poseidon, and Plato. Curiously, it seems that the philosopher has determined that eating animals is unjust, as the Plato was a vegetarian pizza.  We went for a meat option.

Arris_Pizza_Web

Between the LEAPsters we split the Aiyaiys pizza, made up of cheese, mushroom, green peppers, and sausage. Professor Yawn got a gyro sandwich of Illiadic proportions in lieu of pizza. We also discovered that Greek pizza bears more resemblance to Italian pizza than American pizza. “Like the Italian pizza, this one had less tomato sauce, and a thinner crust,” commented Paul Oliver. Having tasted among the finest in Greek pie we drove towards Springfield, Illinois in hopes that we would make there on time before the closing of Lincoln’s burial grounds.


Lincoln’s Tomb

After another long car ride we arrived at Lincoln’s Tomb. It is an impressive edifice, boasting a central obelisk that rises to a point high above the rest of the mausoleum.

Lincoln's Tomb, Springfield, IL

A statue of Lincoln adorns the front, his hand outstretched before him. Beneath him various statues of heroes stand. At the base of the tomb is a heavy, metal door that allows entrance into his sepulcher.

The rest of the necropolis was quite beautiful as well. The landscape of lush, green grass and tall trees provided a verdant resting place for the dead. Most curiously, adjacent to Lincoln’s tomb was the old home for the tomb’s caretaker. Due to an edict issued by the governor at the time of the crypt’s construction, all government buildings had to be made in a gothic style. The caretaker’s home is therefore made of stone bricks, and has a presumably faux-watchtower built into its side, as well as battlements upon the roof.

As the tower’s bell knoll marked the time for the cemetery to close, we rode to take a peak of Illinois’ Capital Building. On its grounds stood a statue of Abraham Lincoln…

Abraham Lincoln, Illinois Capitol Building
The LEAP Guys with Abraham Lincoln and the Illinois Capitol

….and Stephen Douglas which we were fond of (he appeared to be strutting). After admiring the very dramatic architecture…

Illinois_Capitol_2_Web

…we rode a few blocks in search of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas home.

Unlike the Usonian homes we had visited in our previous trip, the Dana-Thomas home was designed in a more oriental-inspired design but it still stood as a home far ahead of its time. Even though it was built a hundred years ago, due to its very modern appearance, it could have very well been built yesterday.

To continue on our search for interesting homes, we also went in search for Lincoln’s Springfield home. Situated along South 8th St. and East Jackson St., the homes that surround the former Illinois senator’s residence are preserved as they were in the 19th century. With the street left unpaved, walking towards Lincoln’s home was an enjoyable stroll down a period of American history that is left frozen in time in those few blocks near The Great Emancipator’s home. As we caught the last glimpses of the residence, with the sun already beneath the horizon and fireflies glittering along the dirt road, we hoped onto our minivan ready to make our three-hour ride to Chicago. With a very satisfying day of historical learning coupled with an estimated total travel time of eleven hours we deemed it appropriate to pat ourselves on the back for having enjoyably finished the second day of our trip.

 

OKC and KC are OK–and More!

Today the LEAP Center got an early start (5:30 in the morning!) to our trip to Michigan. We are heading north to assist author Jeff Guinn in researching a group called the Vagabonds. This team of influential businessmen and geniuses, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Burroughs, and Harvey Firestone, would go on road trips across America during the summer months, just like we are today! Also like the Vagabonds, we not only have a final destination in mind, but we are willing to take in the sights along the way. In the spirit of our mission, we made our first pit stop in Oklahoma City.


Oklahoma City Museum of Art

As we approached the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, we were captivated by the building’s clear facade through which we could see a long, colorful glass sculpture true to Dale Chihuly’s style. Upon entering we were able to get a better view of the piece. As we ventured through the third floor, which showcased modern artists, we made our way to the Chihuly exhibit. With the room kept in low lighting, the vibrant colors of blown glass, warped into various shapes and sizes, were accentuated.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly
                                                           Brian Aldaco Admires Chihuly’s Glasswork

This left us in more awe as we admired his works of art,

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly

…which included not only his bowl collection, but also his “Persian Ceiling”….

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling

…and “Reeds.”

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Dale Chihuly, Reeds

Venturing into the lower floor, we were able to explore more American and international art. Exhibited in this floor were works by Georgia O’Keeffe, John Cage, Roy Lichtenstein, an Alexander Calder mobile…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Alexander Calder, Mobile
Ryan and Brian (B-Ryan, as we call them) Construct a Mobile

…Charles Willson Peale…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Charles Willson Peale, George Washington
Charles Willson Peale’s George Washington

Thomas Moran…

Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran’s “Grand Venice Canal”

…and a nice wing on WPA art…

Oklahoma_Arts_Center_WPA_Paul_Web

…just to name a few. Surrounded by the works of such great artists we left with an improved cultural wealth.

Apart from this, during our Oklahoma City visit we also chased after historical wealth by visiting the Land Run Monument. With 38 different bronze frontiersmen (or Sooners) as a representation of the state’s rush of immigrants eager to receive land in the 1889 Land Run, the monument has become the longest series of sculptures in the world. Strolling among the giant rushing horses and wagons, artistically molded by sculptor Paul Moore to keep a perpetual sense of urgency, we were also inspired to get on the road towards our next city of our Midwestern tour.


Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City

After crossing the Kansas-Missouri border onto Kansas City, we soon arrived at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. With the ground ornamented with various sculptures…

Louise Bourgeois, Kemper Museum of Art, Spider
Louise Bourgeois’s “Spider Mother”

…from a giant spider to a crying giant, the interior works of art were just as intriguing. We were treated to another Chihuly…

Kemper Museum, KC, Dale Chihuly
One of the Kemper’s Three Dale Chiluhy Sculptures

…as well as myriad national and international artists.  The museum offered a sense of different disciplines practiced within the contemporary arts community. Among the ones included inside the facility were mixed media formats, photography, glass media, and various other forms of unconventional, at times whimsical forms of expression.  Unfortunately, we visited when two of the four galleries were closed for installations, so our visit was only half fulfilled.


Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

This, however, left us more time at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which is only a short walk from the Kemper. The Nelson-Atkins museum has a copious outdoor green space, populated by pieces of statuary. Perhaps the most renowned piece present on the museum grounds is Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Rodin, Thinker
Rodin’s Thinker

Other works included various pieces by Henry Moore…

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Henry Moore, Reclining Figure
Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure”

…a glass maze called the “Glass Labyrinth” (by Robert Morris),

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Robert Morris, Glass Labyrinth
Robert Morris’s “Glass Labyrinth”

…”Three Bowls” by Ursula von Rydingsvard, which, in addition to being three-dimensional art, also possesses a distinctive smell, giving the art a multi-faceted interaction with the senses…

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Three Bowls

We also saw one of George Rickey’s kinetic pieces of art…

Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, George Rickey

Most curiously, we also saw four giant shuttlecocks, one of the many quirky creations of sculptors Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen…

Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Shuttlecock

 

With just 30 minutes left before the museum closed, we headed inside to take a look at their exhibits. We had the fortune to enter near the Roman and Medieval pieces, giving us a taste of a very different art style from the contemporary and modern works we had viewed at the other museums. After perusing some of the 19th-century masters such as Claude Monet…

Claude Monet, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

…and Vincent Van Gogh…

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Vincent Van Gogh

…we headed to the “Naguchi Sculpture Court,”

 

Isamu Naguchi, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Naguchi Court
“Six Foot Energy Void” by Isamu Naguchi

which showcases seven of the artists’ works in one room.

And with the closing of the Museum, we took one last look around the park before heading back to the van and driving towards out next stop: dinner!


Grunauer and Union Station

To wrap up our first day, we ate at a German restaurant called Grünauer. We started out with Jausenbrettl, a sampler platter of German meats. We split several entrées including Jäger Schnitzel Vom Schwein (pork scallopini with spätzle), Schweinebraten (roast pork loin and shoulder with red cabbage), and Bauernschmaus (smoked pork loin, bacon, and a bratwurst with sauerkraut), but the best part by far was the apple strudel and Nutella crepes we had for desert.

Since Union Station was so near, we decided to walk through and around it to walk off the huge meal we had just ate. It is still in operation to this day and still beautiful…

Union Station, Kansas City
Union Station in Kansas City

and has seen many famous celebrities and presidents come through, such as Eisenhower, FDR, and Truman. As we left the station via a bridge which stood over a system of railways (with a passenger train ready to depart and a resting open-top freight cart anticipating it’s delivery), we took in the city’s nocturnal, tranquil ambiance. Thus we satisfyingly completed the first day of our Vagabond research trip.

Nelson_Atkins_Walking_Web

Travel Reflections: Favorites from the South (and Midwest)

The LEAP Center’s mission is to offer unique educational opportunities for students.  An example of this is the Center’s annual trip to the Southern Legislative Conference, to which the LEAP Ambassadors are invited to attend.  While the conference offers the opportunity to learn about policies among 15 southern (and near-southern) states, the travel to and from the conference also presents learning opportunities.

Following the students’ 11-day trip across eight states and more than 20 educational sites, the seven students selected their favorite destinations across categories such as food, historical landmark, museums, and cities.  The results are below:

Favorite Cities:

  • Eureka Springs, AR: This quaint little town proved to be the favorite of the group, with almost every student placing it on their top three.
Flatiron Building, Eureka Springs, AR
LEAP Ambassadors in Front of “Flatiron Building” in Eureka Springs, AR
  • Lexington, KY: The site of our conference also proved popular.  With its beautiful horse farms, pretty downtown, and attractive parks, students enjoyed four days in the horse capitol of the country.
Triangle Park, Lexington
The LEAP Ambassadors at Triangle Park, Lexington
  • Hot Springs, AR: This was a surprise to our professor, but the students enjoyed seeing the springs, the historic architecture, and meeting other SHSU students by happenstance!
Ozark Bathhouse, Hots Spring Arkansas
LEAP Ambassadors in Front of Ozark Bathhouse, Hot Springs, AR

Favorite Restaurants:

Little towns ruled the culinary arts on this tour!


Favorite Works of Architecture:

  • Frank Lloyd Wright House (Bachman-Wilson House) at Crystal Bridges was the favorite, edging out some other top designs.  The large living room won the day!
Frank LLoyd Wright, Crystal Bridges, Bachman-Wilson Home, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors Outside of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson Home
  • Anthony Chapel at Garvin Gardens, Hot Spring, AR was one of three Fay Jones’ Chapels the student saw, and it proved the favorite.  Although larger than the other two (which are in Bella Vista and Eureka Springs), the three designs are very similar.
Garvin Gardens, E. Fay Jones, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Garvin Gardens by Fay Jones, Hot Springs, AR
  • Honorable Mention should go to several structures.  The students very much enjoyed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Union Station in St. Louis…
Union Station, STL MO
LEAP Ambassadors at Union Station, St. Louis, MO

…the Old Mill is always a favorite stop.

Gone With the Wind, Little Rock, Arkansas, Old Mill
LEAP Ambassadors at Old Mill, Little Rock, AR

…and The Parthenon proved a favorite as well.

The Parthenon, Nashville
The LEAP Ambassadors at the Parthenon, Nashville, Tennessee

Favorite Works of Art

  • The Turrell Skyscape, “The Way of Color” at Crystal Bridges:

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  • Au Cafe, by Stanton MacDonald-Wright was also popular, providing much head-scratching and discussion.
"Au Cafe," by Stanton MacDonald-Wright
“Au Cafe,” by Stanton MacDonald-Wright
  • George Seurat’s “Outer Harbor” at the Crystal Bridges Museum
George Seurat, Pointillism, SLAM, Outer Harbor
George Seurat’s “Outer Harbor” at the St. Louis Art Museum

Activities

  • Hiking: The students enjoyed both their hike at Pinnacle Mountain…
Pinnacle Mountain, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Abassadors at the Peak of Pinnacle Mountain

…and Devil’s Den State Park…

Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors at Devil’s Den State Park
  • Ropes Course at Megacavern in Louisville, KY
Megacavern, Ropes Course
Karla Rosales and Ryan Brim at the MegaCavern
  • Tie:  Skeet Shooting…
Brian Aldaco, Skeet Shooting
Brian Aldaco Hitting Targets

…and meeting Blair Hess and Cameron Ludwick, authors of “My Old Kentucky Road Trip.”

Camp Nelson, Blair Hess, Cameron Ludwick, My Old Kentucky Road Trip
LEAP Ambassadors with Authors Blair Hess and Cameron Ludwick

It was another enormously rewarding road trip, providing us with the opportunity to learn about history, art, architecture, civil rights, politics, law, and public policy.  It was a happy eleven days!

LEAP Ambassadors, Pinnacle Mountain
LEAP Ambassadors at Pinnacle Mountain

Exploring Northwest Arkansas: Razorback Country

July 15, 2016

Rejuvenated from sleep, we woke ready for our day, which would consist of touring the University of Arkansas Law School, hiking and catching a movie to wind down.


University of Arkansas School of Law

When we arrived at the University of Arkansas School of Law, we met with Ms. Kalesha McGraw, the Assistant Director of Admissions, and she welcomed us to the school before taking us to the student lounge for a quick overview of the law school. We learned about the admissions process, the class schedules and sizes, and the student life in Fayetteville. We also learned about notable (former) faculty such as Bill and Hillary Clinton. If Hillary Clinton becomes elected, University of Arkansas -Fayetteville will be the first law school to have more than one faculty member become President of the United States. The rest of the Q&A section with Ms. McGraw consisted of questions that ranged from the cost and the admissions process to the actual courses and the structure of the classes.

After our informative Q&A session, we walked upstairs to observe Professor Day’s Professional Responsibility class. This is a required course and helps students prepare for the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE). This exam is a prerequisite for taking the Bar Exam and tests law students’ knowledge on ethics. During the summer fewer students are on campus, but classes are still in session. The topic of discussion for class today was on conflicts an attorney may face during their practice. Throughout the class, the Professor explained conflicts using cases where ethical issues arose. To explain a complicated scenario, the Professor and students even role played a scene which presented the situation in an interesting and clear way. We enjoyed the class and our Professor’s informative teaching methods!

Following class, we took a quick tour around the building visiting places like the courtroom and the library. The law school was even nice enough to provide lunch for us! Satisfied, we stopped to admire the Jesus Moroles sculptures in the courtyard…

University of Arkansas School of Law, Jesus Moroles, Fayetteville, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors at University of Arkansas School of Law, Jesus Moroles’ Sculptures

…and the front of the school on our way out.

Front of U of A Law, With Additional Moroles Sculptures
Front of U of A Law, With Additional Moroles Sculptures

Many thanks to Ms. McGraw and the University of Arkansas- Fayetteville Law School for their hospitality!

After a morning filled with learning and a long trip, some of us decided to take a mental and physical break.  Others, however, soldiered on, readying ourselves for a brief bit of shopping and a hike in Devil’s Den State Park.

Before driving down highway 170 into Devil’s Den State Park, we stopped to peak into some shops in town. Once everyone was satisfied with what they had purchased, we began our journey to Devil’s Den. As our second hike of the trip, the first being the climb up Pinnacle Mt. near Little Rock, we felt prepared and pumped up for the rugged expedition that we were about to take part of. With the sun falling on the horizon, the weather was a prime condition to explore inside the woods.


Devil’s Den

This 2,500 acre state park offers myriad outdoor activities, from rafting to camping to hiking.  We chose the latter, embarking on the Devil’s Den Self-Guided trail, which is 1.5 miles round-trip.

As we began on our trail we descended down masonry steps. Such modifications to the trails and other man made structures within the state park were once Civilian Conservation Corps projects from the Great Depression. The engineering talent of these laborers is clear when taking these steps and observing how strong they still are, even after almost a century of its construction! The traces of useful man made structures became fewer as we went deeper into the woods.

Ahead of us stood trails traced through the rocky cliffs with trees filtering the sun and casting a serene shadow over the whole scene. Then, the trail neared a river, waters sonorously rushing through and echoing through the woods. This sound at times kept us focused, as we knew that as long as we kept the river at our left shoulders we were going the right way. Along the trail, at times encountering uneven, slippery and rocky ground, we found caves in which the temperature inside would lower presumably by ten-twenty degrees.

Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambassadors, Caverns
LEAP Ambassadors in One of Devil’s Dens’ Caverns

The trail also goes by the more descriptive name of “Double Falls” Hike, so named because of two falls that appear about halfway through the trail.  For us, though, the trail could have been named “Triple Falls,” because, hearing water of the main trail, we made tracks over a hill to find a small waterfall.

To get there, we had to cross a log bridge…

Devils_Den_Log_Bridge_Beatriz_Web

…but this only added to the excitement of our discovery.

Having safely traversed the fallen-tree bridge, we frolicked in the waterfalls…

Devils_Den_Small_Waterfall_2_Web

…okay, frolicked may be too strong of a word.  But we did have fun.

We found additional falls further along our hike.

Waterfalls, Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambasadors
Waterfalls in Devil’s Den State Park

Only a few feet beyond these falls was another waterfall, equally as delightful.

LEAP Ambassadors, Devil's Den State Park, Waterfalls
Waterfalls at Devil’s Den State Park

From our trek we had worked our selves into perspiration and slight exhaustion. The refreshing, cool water of these natural showers, however, were just the perfect manna we needed to continue on our journey through Devil’s Den.

From the falls, the hike wends it way downhill, which offers another striking view of the falls.

Devils_Den_Waterfall_5_Web

And this perspective provided additional photo ops.

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We even found another log bridge on which to climb.

Tree Bridge, Devil's Den State Park, LEAP Ambassadors
LEAP Ambassadors Enjoy Devil’s Den State Park

As we completed the 1 1/2 mile hike, ducking our heads to evade pesky spider webs threaded from tree to tree…

Devils_Den_Spider_Web

…we contemplated our accomplishments. We had finished another hike on our trip! With tiring limbs and sweaty backs, we climbed the van with a sense of victory and ready to relax and catch a movie.

But, first, we made two more stops.  We picked up food from Hammontree’s, an excellent grilled cheese specialty restaurant in Fayetteville.  We also made our way to Mt. Sequoyah, the highest spot in Fayetteville, where we watched the sunset.

LEAP Ambassadors, Mt. Sequoyah, NW Arkansas
LEAP Ambassadors at Mt. Sequoya

It was, we thought, a fitting end to a wonderful trip.


Movies and Winding Down

Once we had freshened up at the hotel, we climbed back into the van and drove to a near by movie theater to watch the remake of Ivan Reitman’s hit movie, Ghostbusters. Even though the original film is about 30 years old, most of us had previously watched it and waited in anticipation through the previews to see how similar this remake would be to our beloved original.

We found many differences between the new film and the original Ghost Busters film, an obvious one being that women instead of men were playing the lead roles. Most of us focused more attention to the fact that Paul Feig’s film also includes multiple nods to Reitman’s original and Sigourney Weaver, Dan Akroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts and even Bill Murray make appearances. After an hour and forty-seven minutes filled with laughs that echoed in the theater (mostly Megan’s), we were ready to turn in for the night to prepare for our long journey home tomorrow morning.