They're sprinting to multiple finish lines at the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History these days.
When the sun comes out and that hint of spring shows up, that's when the museum puts it in high gear. Over the next few weeks, it's one event after another at their home on the east end of the Brazos Center.
As a former museum board member, I can attest to the hard times it spent struggling in virtual anonymity. "So you're on the board of the Children's Museum?" friends would ask.
"No," I responded, "the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History."
"We have one of those? Where is it?" was the usual comeback.
It's been a dedicated journey that goes years back, with the tireless campaign of getting the word out started by Director Emeritus Dr. Tom Lynch and continuing under the watch of Director Dr. Deborah Cowman and her staff of hired hands and volunteers -- and, of course, the board. Hardly a week goes by that my e-mail inbox doesn't have a fresh news release from the museum about an upcoming event.
For example, coming up Wednesday, there's a free, fun NASA exhibit, "Driven to Explore," from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. You'll hear, see and pretty much come as close as you can to space exploration while standing in the Brazos Center parking lot. The exhibit is a combination of video and audio and a chance to not only see but also touch a three-billion-year-old moon rock.
On April 2, comb those ducktails and get out the poodle skirts as the museum celebrates its 50th birthday with a 1950s-themed party. It's a dance and more, featuring Stevo DJ along with performances by M.A. Sterling's Brazos Valley Troupe, dance lessons and demonstrations by Shelly Galloway and Ray Garcia of Brazos Ballroom Dance Studio, not to mention plenty of good eats.
You can win a 50s record collection, a American Indian shield, a weekend stay at a bed and breakfast or a Benjamin Knox print with a winning raffle ticket, and you don't have to be there to win -- but being there is more fun. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for students and are on sale at the museum.
You probably know by now that the museum has been involved for more than a year in a campaign to give one of the three retired shuttle orbiters a permanent home in the Brazos Valley, and on April 12 we'll find out if those efforts have paid off. That's when NASA administrator Charles Bolden will announce his decision as to where the historic space crafts will be housed, with Space Center Houston the museum's main competition in Texas for one of the orbiters.
"There are a lot of people behind the scenes working to help us," Cowman said. "There are a lot of astronauts who have trained at Texas A&M, and as active astronauts they have to stay neutral, they can't endorse a particular project -- but that doesn't mean they can't privately be pulling for us."
If the museum's bid is successful, the shuttle orbiter will be displayed in a newly constructed museum of science and history on the A&M campus next to and in cooperation with the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, a plan the former President has endorsed. Cowman believes that NASA, A&M and the museum form a natural partnership.
"Our museum has a long association with Texas A&M," she said, "and when you look at the [Vision 2020] that A&M has (a plan to make the university a consensus top-10 public school by 2020), a new museum fits almost every one of those points. NASA would like to see the shuttle used to promote science, engineering, technology and math, and A&M is fabulous in that. A&M has a long history of being involved with the space program."
Dr. Cowman is inviting the public to a "shuttle watch" to hopefully celebrate the announcement.
"We hope it's going to be fantastic news," she said. "We think we're going to get it and if we do, we're planning champagne fights on the front lawn."
Finally, the museum is holding its third-annual spring Dino-Drawing Art Challenge. Young artists are invited to draw, paint or color any type of dinosaur to enter the contest, and the winning entries in five categories (between pre-kindergarten and eighth grade) will receive a free museum membership for a full year. Entries must be received by April 15, and winners will be announced May 3.
Regular admission to the museum's permanent galleries and traveling exhibits is $5 for adults and $4 for children 4-17, students and seniors. Museum members and children 3 and under are admitted free. Operating hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Writer's Eye competition
March 27 is the deadline for entries in the University Art Galleries Department Writer's Eye competition, a prose and poetry contest inspired by works of art on campus. The goal of Writer's Eye is to increase awareness of the visual arts on campus and provide a platform for students to show their creative expression.
Entries must focus on any of the following seven pieces of art on the Texas A&M campus -- Clockwork Orange by John Alexander (Heep Center, main lobby), Sunflower/Moonflower by Mary Saslow (Psychology Building, second floor, outside room 246), Roughneck by Rosie Sandifer (Richardson Petroleum Engineering Building), Breakup on the Jetty by Richard G. Stout (Student Computing Center, first floor), Untitled (Rose Trellis) by Keith Moore (Horticulture Building, Benz Gallery, first column from main entrance), IRT 2, South Bronx, New York City by Danny Lyon (Langford, Building A, TRC, outside room 212B), and Untitled Mural by Robert Salleroli (Rudder Complex, second floor, corridor to the right of the theater entrance).
The competition is open to A&M students and co-enrolled Blinn College and A&M students. For rules and information how to submit entries, visit uart.tamu.edu and click the Writer's Eye link on the left or call 845-8501.
Bryan ISD ArtFest
The Bryan ISD annual ArtFest is Saturday at the Bryan High School Silver Campus cafeteria. More than 1,000 original creations from artists in kindergarten through high school will be on display.
The event runs from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., is free and open to the public and will also feature hands-on workshops for the whole family.
Save the Date
* Saturday: Bryan ISD ArtFest, 2 p.m., Bryan High School Silver Campus cafeteria (bryanisd.org).
* Saturday: 40th Anniversary of Arts Council of the Brazos Valley, 7-9 p.m., George Bush Presidential Library (696-2787, acbv.org).
* March 27: Concerts on Carter Creek presents "Sonatapotamus!" with the Marian Anderson String Quartet and Robert Leslie, 6 p.m., First Presbyterian Church of Bryan (823-8073, fpcbryan.org).
* March 31-April 16: StageCenter presents Mauritius, 7:30 p.m. (823-4297, stagecenter.net).
* March 31: American Guild of Organists presents "Members Recital", 7:30 p.m., A&M United Methodist Church (846-8731, am-umc.org).
* March 31-April 16: Brenham Unity Theatre presents Charley's Aunt (979-830-8358, unitybrenham.org).
* April 2: Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History presents "Rockin' and Rollin' 50th Birthday Party", 7-11 p.m., Brazos Center (776-2195, brazosvalleymuseum.org).
* April 10: Brazos Valley Symphony presents "Rhapsody in Blue", 5 p.m., Rudder Theater (696-6100, bvso.org).
* All month: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station presents "The Heart Truth's Red Dress Collection," through Aug. 14. (691-4000, bushlibrary.tamu.edu).
* All month: Children's Museum of the Brazos Valley in downtown Bryan offers various programs, including Monday Madness, 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (mymuseum.com, 779-5437).
* Tom Turbiville is The Eagle's arts columnist. He's also sports director for WTAW-1620 AM. E-mail him at tom.turbiville@ theeagle.com.