Premiere of Willa Cather: Breaking the Mold

A New Documentary
Spring Conference
- CT

National Willa Cather Center
413 N. Webster St.
Red Cloud, NE 68970
United States

Full Conference Schedule

“Willa Cather has long been one of my favorite authors, so I was pleased to share my fondness for her literature in this film. I trust all who watch this new documentary will be captivated by Cather's life and the complex world that inspired the enduring stories conveyed in her fiction.” 

– Ken Burns


Animation by Tiwa Studio
Animation by Tiwa Studio

Willa Cather defies convention. She was both a regional writer and an international literary superstar; her novels and stories transported readers to a lowly frontier dugout or an elegant theater loge with equal adeptness. For more than one hundred years, Cather’s deeply human characters and stories rooted in her own American experience have resonated with readers, and now Cather’s enduring reputation has earned her a place in the National Statuary Hall Collection of the United States Capitol. This short film chronicles Cather’s pursuit of literary acclaim alongside the creation and unveiling of her statue in Washington, D.C. Using archival imagery, Cather’s own words, and observations from contemporary readers and scholars, this documentary invites viewers to revisit and reexamine Cather’s importance to American literature and encourages exploration of her life more fully through literary pilgrimage.



Many thanks to the following individuals for their commentary or involvement with the film’s development:

Littleton Alston is Professor of Sculpture at Creighton University, the recipient of numerous public art commissions, and the winner of the Willa Cather National Statuary Hall Competition. He created the statue of Willa Cather housed in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol.

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is the nationally bestselling author of the novel Woman of Light and the widely acclaimed short story collection Sabrina & Corina, a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of an American Book Award. She is a 2023 Guggenheim Fellow and the 2022–2024 Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University.

Ken Burns is a highly acclaimed documentarian, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, and co-founder of Florentine Films. He served as Honorary National Chair for the campaign to create the National Willa Cather Center.

Andrew Jewell is Co-Director of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, a Professor and Chair in the University Libraries at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the co-editor of The Complete Letters of Willa Cather.

Ingrid Holmquist is an award-winning filmmaker, video journalist, educator, and freelance documentarian.

Melissa J. Homestead is a Professor of English and Program Faculty in Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Director of the Cather Project, author of The Only Wonderful Things: The Creative Partnership of Willa Cather and Edith Lewis, and Co-editor of The Complete Letters of Willa Cather.

Rachel Olsen is the Director of Education & Engagement at the National Willa Cather Center, the Director of the Willa Cather Teacher Institute, and the Digital Engagement Coordinator for Making a Place: A Long History of Red Cloud.

Ashley Olson is the Executive Director of the National Willa Cather Center and the Project Director for the development of American Bittersweet: The Life & Writing of Willa Cather and Making a Place: A Long History of Red Cloud. She served as an Advisor to the Willa Cather National Statuary Hall Selection Committee.

Kelsey Squire is an Associate Professor of English and the Director of the Core Program at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus Ohio. She is the author of Willa Cather: The Critical Conversation and an Editorial Board member of the Willa Cather Review.

Tracy Tucker is the Director of Collections & Curation at the National Willa Cather Center, a Certified Archivist, and the Curator of American Bittersweet: The Life and Writing of Willa Cather and Making a Place: A Long History of Red Cloud.

Tracyann F. Williams is Assistant Dean for Student Support and Success at Fordham University, recipient of the Helena Rubinstein Foundation fellowship, the Distinguished University Teaching Award from The New School, and a fellow in the inaugural Leadership for a New Academy, sponsored by the American Council for Learned Societies.