A nationally-recognized sculptor has become the benefactor for a hands-on environmental education program at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve near Murrieta.
Sculptor Austin Casson will be donating 20 percent of all sales of his works to the Santa Rosa Plateau Foundation, which funds and provides the program for local schoolchildren, it was announced Tuesday.
Casson creates works in different mediums including life-sized sculptures of birds of prey, mountain lions, grizzly bears, horses and golfers while working in bronze, resin, stone and concrete, according to a news release. His lifetime admiration for the large birds of prey and horses has been a very strong theme in his works from these years.
Many of Casson’s sculptures have received national recognition, write-ups and commendations. "Cry Freedom," a large bronze eagle that was presented to former President George H.W. Bush by Howie Long, is now at the Presidential library. The California Thoroughbred Hall of Fame maintains a permanent Breeder’s Cup Trophy, which features Austin’s “Mare and Foal” bronze.
Sales proceeds will benefit 8,000 children in grades third through 12th at 10 local school districts who participate in the Foundation’s four hands-on environmental education programs, according to Ginger Greaves, executive director of SRPF.
The Foundation’s mission is to inspire and motivate children to learn and care about the natural world, which they accomplish by providing nature and science education programs at the Reserve, 39400 Clinton Keith Road in Murrieta, Greaves said.
“We are hoping the programs plant the seeds to motivate the students to become stewards of the land," Greaves said.
The four programs that will benefit from the sale of Casson’s sculptured works, according to Greaves, are: Third Grade Education and Outreach, Fifth Grade Seed Restoration, Middle School Grassland Restoration and High School Habitat Studies and Restoration.
“Austin Casson has been a donor supporting the children’s programs at the Reserve in the past, but we are stunned and extremely grateful of his generous offer to provide exclusive support to the Foundation from the sale of his marvelous works,” Greaves said.
Casson spoke of the importance of the program run by the nonprofit organization.
"If you have never seen the third-grade program in action you are missing a real treat," Casson said. "Every day a busload of kids arrive at the visitor center about 9 (a.m.). Groups are formed under the watchful eyes of several Docents and they all sit in the center for an animated introduction by Rob Hicks. This guy is a truly gifted teacher and a large group of students become quietly entranced. The silent audience speaks of opening minds. Just take a moment and stop in and see this part. It’s well worth the time to see this program in action. Then each group is taken for an educational hike narrated by these committed volunteer Docents who share the wonders of this magical Reserve. There are few places where I can see the clear and long-term benefit of a charitable donation. If even one of these children each day is sparked into a life of loving nature...wow."
Buyers will be able to file the donation as a charitable tax deduction.