Building a Learning Legacy One Gift at a Time

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Confluence Park, designed by Ball-Nogues Studio. Rendering courtesy of San Antonio River Foundation.

Estela's headshot 2011Perhaps you’ve strolled beneath F.I.S.H., the glittering larger than life fish sculptures suspended over the river, or through Grotto, the fairytale waterfall installation that transforms a nook of the Museum Reach. Or if you’re one of the thousands who have started exploring the Mission Reach, you may have walked the foot bridge enhancements "The Once And Future Riveror "Up On The On." Those enhancements, as well as other art installations, plantings, trees and landscaping, were installed along the San Antonio River through the efforts of the San Antonio River Foundation.

F.I.S.H. exhibit by Donald Lipski on the River Walk. Courtesy Photo.

The F.I.S.H. exhibit on the Museum Reach by Donald Lipski on the River Walk near the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA). Courtesy Photo.

I like to think of each of those art installations and the landscaping as gifts to our city, there for everyone to enjoy. And while we’re proud of our role as the only non-profit involved in the San Antonio River Improvements Project and our efforts thus far, we have an even bigger gift planned.

As The Rivard Report so eloquently detailed recently, what was a vacant lot adjacent to the Mission Reach on the city’s South Side will be transformed into Confluence Park, a world-class educational facility that’s not just a gem for the South Side, but for all of San Antonio.

Located at the convergence of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek at 310 W. Mitchell Street, Confluence Park will serve as a destination for learning and recreation, inspiring visitors while teaching environmental science and sustainability. A landmark project where art and science meet, the park will be a living example of the promise of our river and what the future will be if we act as stewards of our river and all of our water sources.

Confluence Park, designed by Ball-Nogues Studio. Rendering courtesy of San Antonio River Foundation.

Confluence Park, designed by Ball-Nogues Studio. Rendering courtesy of San Antonio River Foundation.

To make this dream a reality, the River Foundation is conducting a fundraising campaign, working to gain donations to fund the creation and construction of Confluence Park. The River Foundation has established an endowment for the park and I’m proud to say that my husband, James (Jim) Avery, and I were the founding donors, giving $1 million dollars to the endowment.

The donation was actually my birthday present, something Jim wanted to do to honor me and support a cause we firmly believe in, a humbling gift that means more to me than anything that could be gift-wrapped.

A yellow-crowned night heron pauses on the San Antonio River. Photo by Lee Marlow/SARA.

A yellow-crowned night heron pauses on the San Antonio River. Photo by Lee Marlow/SARA.

The name “Confluence” represents not just the meeting of the river and the creek, but the merging of education and recreation; art and science; nature and technology; past and future—the river has always played a role in San Antonio and with care, it will continue to shape our city for generations to come. And that’s why James and I decided to support the endowment fund bringing this project to life.

Confluence Park addresses two issues vital to San Antonio’s future:  water and education. We all must learn to become stewards of our rivers and our water sources, while our community thirsts for innovative educational opportunities.

The park addresses environmental stewardship through a venue designed to intrinsically link the river and the classroom, creating a learning experience that can apply to a variety of studies, from environmental to biological to engineering. We also hope the art of the park will inspire people, encouraging everyone to connect to the river in a new way.

While most everyone knows my husband for the beauty and designs of James Avery Craftsman, many don’t know that Jim is a former educator.

He taught at the college level before his creations became a successful business and we believe that when you share knowledge, you shape the future. Education transforms us and unlocks opportunities we may have never known.

James Avery stepped down as CEO of James Avery Craftsman in 2007 – 53 years after he founded it. "Fifty-three years after he first founded the company, James Avery Craftsman, James officially stepped down as CEO in May 2007 and passed the reins to his son, Chris."He is still involved with the company and many days you can find him pursuing what he loves -- creating new design ideas out of his office at the corporate headquarters in Kerrville." Courtesy of www.jamesavery.com.

James Avery founded his jewelry company in 1954. "He is still involved with the company and many days you can find him pursuing what he loves -- creating new design ideas out of his office at the corporate headquarters in Kerrville." Courtesy of www.jamesavery.com.

The multi-purpose function of Confluence Park and the idea of using this unique environment to teach about science, environmental stewardship, art...the opportunities are endless. The San Antonio River Foundation established the Confluence Park Educational Endowment to make those opportunities come to life for San Antonio and Jim and I made the cornerstone donation to give the endowment roots as those opportunities grow.

We believe in the power of philanthropy and what can happen when people join forces, and funds, to make a difference. Jim and I met through a fundraiser years ago and we actively support a number of causes, working through organizations where our involvement can spur growth, foster development and make positive things happen. Confluence Park is the type of project that will cause ripples of good throughout our community.

Professionally, I serve as the Executive Director of the San Antonio River Foundation, but that’s not what fueled Jim and me to give. Our connection to the San Antonio River flows beyond my job:  most people don’t realize I started my commitment to the river as a volunteer, then as a board member of this amazing non-profit that works to enhance the natural resource that has shaped both our city and our history.

Jim was first introduced to the beauty of Texas through his service in the U.S. Army Air Corps when he was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base. Texas’ natural beauty still inspires him and we want that inspiration to spark for future generations as well. The natural resources we enjoy must be cherished—from the beauty of the Hill Country to the quiet serenity of the San Antonio River—they draw you in. Confluence Park’s unique design will teach how to protect and preserve our natural resources so the beauty we enjoy will thrive long after we’re gone.

The mission of the San Antonio River Foundation is to promote educational, cultural and scientific projects and activities that enhance the conservation, stewardship, restoration, preservation and enjoyment of the land and water resources of the San Antonio River basin and its tributaries.

Sculptor George Schroeder's "River Origins And Movements" bridge installment overlooks Carlos Cortes' "The Grotto" on the  Museum Reach. Photo courtesy of SARA.

Sculptor George Schroeder's "River Origins And Movements" bridge installment overlooks Carlos Cortes' "The Grotto" on the Museum Reach. Photo courtesy of SARF.

We are proud of the enhancements we added to the Museum Reach, as well as our ongoing efforts on the Mission Reach. Confluence Park is an aggressive, tangible project that combines every aspect of our mission while specifically promoting education. As we mark our tenth year of serving San Antonio, Confluence Park anchors our future efforts and embodies the promise the river—if we work together to make it happen.

The San Antonio River is undergoing a transformation—we need an educational facility that matches it. We must work together to ensure that the promise of Confluence Park is fulfilled and we hope you’ll join us. It’ll be the best gift you’ll ever receive.

About the San Antonio River Foundation: Its mission is to promote educational, cultural, and scientific projects and activities that enhance the conservation, stewardship, restoration, preservation, and enjoyment of the land and water resources of the San Antonio River basin and its tributaries. Established in 2003 by the San Antonio River Authority, the Foundation’s primary focus has been the San Antonio River Improvements Project, one of the country’s most exciting public works projects creating a linear urban park weaving through San Antonio. For more information, visit www.sariverfoundation.org.

 

Related Stories:

 D.C. Official’s Visit to San Antonio Begins on the Mission Reach

 Confluence Park: Nature’s Learning Laboratory Atop the Mission Reach

Museums in the Current: Hardberger’s Homage to the San Antonio River

SARA Documentary Chronicles Story of the San Antonio River

A Painter’s Practiced Eye Turns to Public Art in San Antonio

Water Security: Will Texas Leadership Finally Act?

The San Antonio River: Respected Around the World

One thought on “Building a Learning Legacy One Gift at a Time

  1. Mr. and Mrs. Avery are true philanthropists. I can’t imagine Kerrville without the many, many contributions of the Averys. James has been known to drive through town, see a need and without fanfare take care of it. The generous scholarships he gives to Hill Country high school graduates make possible many college educations which otherwise would not happen. He and Estella are true beacons of light; everything they touch says “beauty.” Thank you to Jim and Estella for all your incredible contributions.

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