Close this search box.

The Witte Museum Announces Theme and Speakers for 2022 Conference on Texas

Join the Conversation on the critical nature of Changing Landscapes, the topic of the 5th Annual Conference on Texas at the Witte Museum.

Trustees of the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation will be honored at the Texas Trailblazers Award Luncheon for transformational land stewardship.

Headshots of Joni Carswell, Laura Bush, Steve Hennigan, and David Schmidly

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (April 15, 2022) – In keeping with the Witte’s mission to shape the future of Texas through transformational and relevant experiences, this year’s theme for the Conference on Texas rose to the top of critical issues: Changing Landscapes. The conference takes place May 16 through 17, 2022 at the Witte Museum in San Antonio. Tickets, with discounts available for students and educators, can be purchased online through

Central to the conference is the Texas Trailblazers Luncheon, presented by Mays Family Foundation, at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, May 16. This year, Texas Trailblazers Award honorees are the trustees of the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation for their incomparable vision, conservation efforts and steadfast support of the Witte Museum on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the South Texas Heritage Center that bears their name. We look forward to recognizing their many achievements at this year’s luncheon.

The 2022 Conference on Texas features an engaging lineup of speakers, including conservation experts, scientists, business leaders, and authors. Featured speakers at the Witte’s conference include:

  • Joni Carswell, CEO and President of Texan by Nature, delivers a keynote address with Laura Bush, founder of Texan by Nature and former First Lady, delivering a special message on video as part of the Texas Trailblazers Award Luncheon
  • Witte Museum President & CEO Marise McDermott opens the conference at the luncheon speaking on “Witte as Witness to Changing Landscapes.”
  • Credit Human President & CEO Steve Hennigan is featured following the luncheon in a moderated conversation on “Future of the Earth: Climate Ready Buildings,” with architect Don McDonald and James Grizzard, President of Harvest Rain.

As an inspiration for the Changing Landscapes theme, the Witte will be debuting a rediscovered Texas artist, James Ferdinand McCan. McCan’s paintings beautifully showcase how the land changed with depictions of wild animals, some of which are now extinct, as well as domestic animals on increasingly vast ranches. His paintings were included in Witte’s inaugural exhibition in 1926 and now, nearly a century later, his art will be featured in a solo exhibition at the Witte, along with a catalog of his works.

“When James Ferdinand McCan arrived in Texas in 1895, it was a time of dramatic change—driven in part by vast and successful ranches, burgeoning railroads and massive immigration,” shared Witte Museum President & CEO Marise McDermott, “Today, changes in the diverse Texas terrain include land stewardship principles and innovations. The 2022 Conference on Texas will address multiple challenges impacting Texas landscapes and communities, inspiring conference participants to help shape the future of Texas.”

Witte Museum Director of Humanities, Mary Margaret McAllen, curator of the McCan exhibition and author of the accompanying catalog will speak on “James Ferdinand McCan: Painting a Historical Portrait of Texas, 1895-1925,” along with Cina Forgason of the Kleberg Foundation, sharing thoughts on what we can learn about South Texas from the rediscovery of McCan’s work, which will be unveiled the Witte Museum’s Russell Hill Rogers Gallery on May 16, 2022 at 4:45 p.m.

To close the conference, on Tuesday, May 17 naturalist and internationally respected researcher and author Dr. David J. Schmidly shares remarks on the influence of human-dominated changes in landscapes and land uses on the state’s wildlife fauna in “Texas Natural History – A Century of Change.”

In addition to these presentations, conference attendees can select from six engaging panel discussions that reflect the museum and conference’s focus on nature, science and culture, with topics ranging from “The Ocelot – Mascot for Habitat Change” to “Solar Energy – Feeding the Grid” and “New Land Stewards: The Next Generation.” Panels on “Inspiring Outdoor Adventure” and “Wild Focus: Twenty-Five Years of Parks and Wildlife Photography” provide inspiration for different ways to enjoy nature while “Waterways, the Gulf, and Migration” explores how Texans have redefined nature through management of the state’s water.

An exclusive pre-conference Plein-Aire art session will be offered 1-4 pm, Sunday May 15. “Draw Closer to Nature, Plein-Aire and Sketching Techniques” will include instruction provided by the San Antonio Art League. Tickets are limited.  

To purchase tickets and view the full conference schedule, including a listing of all panel participants, visit


The Conference on Texas: Changing Landscapes and the Texas Trailblazers Award Luncheon are generously supported by the Elizabeth Huth Coates Charitable Foundation, Mays Family Foundation, Veltri and Velasquez Wealth Management of Wells Fargo and Wells Fargo, the Tex Elliott Family, East Foundation, Jefferson Bank, Luther King Capital Management, and Bonnie and John Korbell.

James Ferdinand McCan: A Texas Artist Rediscovered is generously supported by the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation; O’Connor and Hewitt Foundation; the McCan Cannon Families; and Summerlee Foundation.