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Michael Barnes

Nature Conservancy Luncheon, Lake Travis Education Foundation Gala, Austin Shakespeare and NTEN Conference

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Michael Dabney, Trey Low and Cooper Drenner at Nature Conservancy of Texas Luncheon.

Michael Dabney, Trey Low
and Cooper Drenner at Nature Conservancy of Texas Luncheon.

NATURE: This luncheon is irresistible. Every year, the Nature Conservancy of Texas welcomes a huge assembly to the Hilton Austin. Last week, the program started right away, as guests munched on a wonderfully fresh salad. Leading the persuasive panel discuss was magnetic TNC leader Laura Huffman, who doubles as the international group’s North American captain for sustainable cities. She was joined by Global Managing Director of Lands Justin Adams and prolific scientist Peter Kareiva. They talked about comprehensive solutions to the water crisis and to the Gulf of Mexico’s health, including “whole system” conservation at Powderhorn Ranch. They optimistically discussed SNAP programs that crowdsource tough scientific problems and how the collaborative effort to save the Edwards Aquifer is studied and copied around the globe. At all times, they respected the private sector as part of the solution, never vilifying oil, gas, cattle or crop producers in Texas, but rather finding ways to include them in resource management. Heady stuff.

Alex Salazar and Jewell Kibling at Lake Travis Education Foundation Gala.

Alex Salazar and Jewell Kibling at Lake Travis Education Foundation Gala.

SCHOOL: The advantages of a suburban school district are many. The Lake Travis district throws benefits for its championship sports teams, but also to support academic programs. Its smoothly stage-managed Education Foundation Gala attracted legions to the Renaissance Austin Hotel. But I was there to chat with Chris Tyson, a regular at such charity events. His company, Tyson Fundraising, started by supplying autographed sports memorabilia for benefits, you know, signed jerseys, balls, photos and so forth. Then Tyson branched out into vacation packages and jewelry, all auctioned live or otherwise. I plan to interview him at length soon. He’s very straightforward about the cut his company gets and how he acquires the valued objects. Should be fascinating.

ARTS: So, what kind of crowd would show up for a three-hour play about scholar and poet A.E. Housman? An older crowd, to be sure, and one that pays careful attention to words. And to good purpose, because Austin Shakespeare‘s staging of Tom Stoppard‘s “The Invention of Love” at the Long Center demanded close consideration. I’d seen the play in New York and Houston, but it had been a while, and at no time did my guest, teacher Lawrence Morgan, or I lose connection to the story that weaves together ancient, Victorian and more modern concepts of love. At intermission, we mingled with other gay men, for whom the play remains a literary touchstone. Good on Austin Shakespeare, which made a hit of Stoppard’s “Arcadia” not long ago.

TECH: It’s like catching the wind in a sieve. Every week, it seems, another group of smart people gather in Austin to share ideas. Last week, one group of several hundred attended the Nonprofit Technology Conference at the Austin Convention Center. Development expert Carolyn Appleton was my social guide at a causal after-conference dinner at Second Bar + Kitchen. Jeff Gordy of Chicago explained his web-based Z2 Systems that provide lower-cost membership and fundraising tools for nonprofits. Two Austin members — Ritu Sharma from Social Media for Nonprofits and Stacy Dyer of Trianon Coffee — talked not only about their professional efforts, but our share social spheres. Everyone seemed keen on NTEN, the Nonprofit Technology Network and its suppleness compared to larger professional fundraising groups. And, oh, the basil-heavy pizza was delish.