Museum trumpets Junior League during gala

Published on Saturday, 21 September 2013 23:11 - Written by By Betty Waters blw@tylerpaper.com

A gala Saturday honored the Junior League of Tyler while celebrating the 20th anniversary of Discovery Science Place with dancing, video imagery, a casino, food, hot-air balloon and a grand finale of pyrotechnics.

“The Junior League started the museum 20 years ago. On this 20th anniversary, we felt it is appropriate to honor them as the force behind Discovery Science Place coming into existence,” Phil Lindsey, the museum’s chief executive officer, said.

Interspersed throughout the evening’s festivities at Willow Brook Country Club were announcements about what the children’s museum has done and upcoming exhibitions.

Theme of the gala, billed as “A Night at the Museum,” was “The Elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water.”

The gala attracted about 250 people who paid $100 each to attend.

“The gala is primarily a fundraising event, but it gave us a chance to show (museum supporters) a good time and what our vision is for the future,” Lindsey said.

The museum could not operate without community support, La-Dawn Fletcher, the museum’s development director, said.

She noted that the community supports the museum financially, through memberships, admissions and sponsorships.

“We are grateful for that for 20 years. It is an amazing accomplishment for a city this size to sustain an organization like this for 20 years,” Ms. Fletcher said. “It is a testament to how special Tyler is.”

Video wallpaper of video imagery was projected all around the ballroom and other décor included special lighting and water fountains.

Attendees danced to the music of the Larry Stanley Band of Tyler, enjoyed cocktails and dinner and played casino games including poker. People also could purchase the opportunity to have a shot at pulling a wine from a wine stack. They could also ride in a hot-air balloon and watch a pyrotechnics show.

All proceeds benefited the museum.

“It’s fun for us to put it (the gala) on and it’s fun for the people who attend,” Ms. Fletcher said.

Lindsey and Rabbi Neal Katz, a board member, made periodic announcements about coming museum exhibitions, including two from the Smithsonian Institution.

An exhibit titled “Earth from Space” will open in late September and run through January.

Another exhibit, “Green Revolution,” will open in January, focusing on green energy, recycling and new technologies aimed at greater ecological responsibility. It will be here a little less than two years.

Discovery Science Place also will co-host with Tyler Junior College’s planetarium a summer-long exhibition called “Leonardo Da Vinci Machines in Motion,” giving museum visitors an opportunity to interact with real Da Vinci machines that the inventor designed centuries ago.

The museum will stage the “Maker Faire” in March, a daylong festival of creativity and ingenuity through science and technology.

During the gala, a video was shown honoring the Junior League of Tyler and featuring interviews with league members involved with the museum in its early days. A gift also was given to the league.

More than 20 years ago, Junior League members brought in hands-on exhibits for children that were set up in empty retail space at Green Acres Shopping Center and occasionally at the mall.

“They would get the space donated and rent the exhibits,” Ms. Fletcher said.

The response from the community was so positive, she added, that they decided to facilitate a permanent exhibition, which led to establishment of Discovery Science Place, an independent museum.

Junior League members used their resources to help the museum start, and a lot of them were the museum’s original board members, Ms. Fletcher said.

“They had to secure a building. They had to secure a nonprofit designation and secure exhibits. All of that was borne out of the Junior League,” Ms. Fletcher said.

Although the museum was set up as an entity separate from the Junior League, the league has been supportive of the museum throughout the museum’s 20-year existence, Ms. Fletcher said.

“We’ve gotten funding from them for after-school programs, for special initiatives and for the Junior League annex building,” Ms. Fletcher said. “They’ve always been a part of Discovery Science Place. We are honored and amazed by that connection. … Twenty years is a wonderful anniversary to celebrate all of this.”

Connie and Tom Seale served as gala committee chairs. Major sponsors were American Bank and Jack and Debbie King of Crown Motor Co.

This is the second year that Discovery Science Place has staged a gala. The first gala last year had an Egyptian theme and attracted about 200 people.