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More than 500 community members gathered on Tuesday as prominent local businessman Lowry Mays and his wife, Peggy, celebrated the new Mays Family Center at The Witte Museum with local leaders during an energetic ribbon cutting ceremony.
The highly anticipated, $15 million event and education center represents a major part of the $100 million expansion taking place at the “New Witte,” and will further connect the museum to the growing Broadway cultural corridor and San Antonio River.
“I’ve always heard that all a child needs is a hand to hold, and a heart to care, and a place to inspire. And what an inspiration this place really is,” said Mays Family Foundation President Kathy Mays Johnson, the Mays’ daughter and a Witte board trustee.
The center was largely developed through a $5 million donation from the Mays Family Foundation, which fundraisers – including at least 10 families, foundations and corporations – were then able to match. Following the ribbon cutting, The Witte held a special Texas Trailblazers luncheon in honor of the Mays and their contributions.
“I just think this center is going to be a wonderful addition to not only the Witte Museum, but certainly the community,” Lowry said.
The center spans 19,000 sq ft. and can seat more than 700 people and a dance floor inside. The center hosted its first official event, a private gala dinner, last Friday. Various nonprofits, organizations and companies have been calling for months to reserve the space, which is booked well into early 2017.
“I would sure hate to compete with this event center, certainly if I was a downtown, stuffy hotel,” Lowry laughed.
Political dignitaries including Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4), and City Council members Alan Warrick II (D2) and Shirley Gonzalez (D5) were present to show their support for the center’s role in the San Antonio cultural and educational community.
“The Witte is certainly the anchor for this Broadway cultural corridor, Wolff said, gesturing to the stretch of Broadway in front of the museum. The Witte lies between Brackenridge Park, and the bustling commercial corridor that connects downtown to the DoSeum, the Pearl, San Antonio Botanical Garden, University of the Incarnate Word, and countless housing developments.
The Witte campus will link visitors with the Acequia Madre, which connects to the San Antonio River, the historic Missions, and more than 300 years of the area’s history and culture.
“This takes the Witte to new heights,” Witte President and CEO Marise McDermott told The Rivard Report. “I’m elated to be here when people are enjoying the building, it just means everything to see people (here) after so long.”
Despite the ongoing construction, a record 150,000 students visited the museum in 2015. Museum officials expect the number of visitors to double or even triple after the expansion.
Other notable attendees of Tuesday’s activities included Texas Monthly Publisher David Dunham and keynote speaker Dr. David Stuart, one of the world’s leading authorities on Mayan hieroglyphics.
The center’s first blockbuster exhibit, Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed, will begin installation on Wednesday, and will open to the public on May 14. The exhibit will feature hundreds of authentic artifacts and an in-depth look at the ancient culture and civilization, as it has never been seen before in Texas.
“We already have 4,000 students signed up to come to (the exhibit) in just the last few weeks of school,” McDermott said. “It’s an exciting time for the Witte and the community.”
Top Image: Witte Museum board members, leadership, elected officials, and Mays Family representatives cut the ceremonial ribbon for the Witte Museum’s Mays Family Center. Photo by Lea Thompson