$5,000 grant from the Earl C. Sams Foundation

e are happy to announce that we received a $5,000 grant from the Earl C. Sams Foundation.

The Earl C. Sams Foundation, Inc. is a private corporation created and funded solely by Earl C. Sams whose business career was involved with the creation and expansion of the J.C. Penney Company. The Earl C. Sams Foundation, Inc. is a charitable private family foundation created by Earl C. Sams in New York in 1946. His descendants continue his legacy in Texas where the Foundation was reincorporated as a Texas Foundation in 1988. The Foundation funds are used for many projects in various educational, medical, social, religious and environmental areas. Over the years, Mr. Sam’s descendants have been charged with the responsibility of wisely administering the Foundation funds in the form of grants to organizations primarily, but not limited to, the South Texas area.

Mississippian Technology mural detail by Karen Carr

Mississippian Technology mural detail by Karen Carr

The grant will be applied to our exhibits titled ‘Wisdom of the Seasons’. Our interpretive exhibit, WISDOM OF THE SEASONS, begins with a trailhead that will orient the visitors to the site and enable them to better explore the discovery areas: interpretive uprights and wayside panels; demonstration areas, and plant identification. The trailhead and all interpretive panels will meet National Park Service standards and will offer a familiar point of departure for visitors. Drew Patterson, Exhibit Designer, is overseeing the project. Archaeologist, Dr. Grant Hall is the overseeing scholar and archaeologist Dan Potter is contributing to the research. Wildlife artist Karen Carr is illustrating our panels. The exhibits also include bed rock mortars, a flint knapping area, a burned rock midden, and a wickiup camp. The burned rock midden and wickiup camp is being constructed by sculptor Mike O’Brien.

Mike O'Brien with panel for Bob Bullock State History Museum

Mike O’Brien with panel for Bob Bullock State History Museum

About Mike O’Brien

We are delighted to have Mike O’Brien join our Team. He will be working with Drew on the Wickiups and will be reconstructing/constructing our Midden.

We asked Mike to send us some information about himself. Prepare to be impressed!

I recently retired after 23 years of work as sculptor and exhibits specialist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. During those years I made everything from life-sized mammoths cast in bronze to tiny houseflies that sat on fake food. I worked with archeologists, anthropologists, biologists, geologists, and paleontologists to create sculptures and exhibits for many of the 120 + state parks. My job was to take their scientific knowledge and distill it into visual and tactile forms that would catch and hold the public’s attention and holdup outdoors. Some of my favorite exhibit projects told the story Native American life in Texas.

From every corner of the state from 12000 BP to the present our exhibits told the story of how Native Americans adapted to our states many different ecoregions and used its resources. I was often called upon to make replicas of dart points and stone tools. I knew the work was good enough when the archeologist who gave me the artifacts could not tell what was the original and what was a plastic copy.

In 1999 Parks and Wildlife loaned me to the State Historical Commission to design and construct six 11’x15” bas-relief panels for the façade of the Bob Bullock State History Museum in Austin. The panels illustrate the highlights of Texas history and are the first thing visitors see when they visit the museum.

In addition to sculpture, my work included graphic design and cartography. One of my pet projects was working with the University of Indiana Geoscience Department to map the majority of exposed dinosaur tracks at the Texas Dinosaur Valley State Park. These maps are now an interactive feature on the Texas Parks Dinosaur Valley website.

– Mike O’Brien

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