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Hundreds Attend National Willa Cather Center Groundbreaking

Preserving Her Legacy: The National Willa Cather Center
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Saturday December 31, 2016
98% Funded
Goal: $6,700,000
Current: $6,535,586
Needed: $164,414
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Hundreds Attend National Willa Cather Center Groundbreaking

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

As they placed their shovels in the dirt on June 5, leadership of the Willa Cather Foundation and acclaimed historian and guest Richard Norton Smith celebrated an important step in the creation of the National Willa Cather Center, breaking ground on the most anticipated part of the renovation, projected to begin later this summer.

In recognition of this milestone, over 200 people attended the groundbreaking celebration and dinner in Red Cloud, which was preceded by a keynote address delivered by Richard Norton Smith. The festivities were held on the opening day of the 60th annual Willa Cather Spring Conference and 15th International Cather Seminar.

In 2016, the National Willa Cather Center will open its doors as a vibrant arts and educational center that will more holistically serve the WCF’s approximately 8,000 annual visitors.  Meanwhile, excitement is growing as the transformation of the historic Moon Block continues and a preliminary phase of construction nears completion.

The overarching premise guiding the project is creation of a preservation environment that provides the best possible conditions for perpetuation of and access to the WCF’s extensive and growing collection of rare books, archival papers, photographs, textiles, and artifacts that belonged to Cather and the Cather family.

While the Center’s focus will be a museum, archive, and exhibition space for collections, the restoration will also provide a classroom, expanded bookstore, art gallery, and backstage facilities for the Foundation's Red Cloud Opera House.

“We are indebted to many generous supporters who have invested in making the National Willa Cather Center a reality, and we look forward to welcoming them all for its grand opening next year,” said Board President Tom Gallagher.

With thanks to more than 465 supporters nationwide, a multi-year campaign to create the Willa Cather Foundation’s first climate controlled archive and museum in Red Cloud is just $212,000 away from reaching its $6.7 million goal.

National Willa Cather Center Projected to Open in 2016

National Willa Cather Center Projected to Open in 2016
National Willa Cather Center Projected to Open in 2016

A multi-year fundraising effort to create our first climate-controlled archive and study center as principal components of what will become the National Willa Cather Center has raised more than $6.12 million in gifts and pledges to date. The project is estimated to cost $6.7 million and a campaign to raise the balance of $573,000 required to complete the effort is in the final stages.

With fundraising at 91% of goal and a preliminary phase of construction nearing conclusion, it is with great pleasure that we announce the impending completion of the National Willa Cather Center in 2016. Major renovation will commence in the coming months in an effort to fully restore the historic Moon Block adjacent to our headquarters into a state-of-the art archive, museum, and arts center.

The overarching premise guiding the project is creation of a preservation environment that provides the best possible conditions for perpetuation and access to our extensive and growing collection of rare books, archival papers, photographs, textiles, and artifacts that belonged to Cather and the Cather family. While the Center’s focus will be a museum, archive, and collection space for public visitation, the restoration will also provide a classroom, expanded bookstore, art gallery, and backstage facilities for our Red Cloud Opera House.

Once complete in 2016, the National Willa Cather Center will become a unique destination and provide an important tribute to one of America’s greatest authors. We invite you to get involved in this important effort by making a donation to the project. Pledges to the campaign are being made over a five-year period and a number of naming and recognition opportunities are available at various giving levels. For more information, please contact Ashley Olson, Executive Director at 402-746-2653 or aolson@willacather.org.

Honorary National Chair, Ken Burns

Honorary National Chair, Ken Burns
Photo of Ken Burns by Cable Risdon
Honorary National Chair, Ken Burns

Documentary filmmaker and lifelong Willa Cather enthusiast Ken Burns is the honorary national chair for the Center's public fundraising effort. According to Burns, who announced the creation of the Center in an online video, "The Center will have something for everyone. As an archive and museum, it will become the permanent home to some of Willa Cather's most personal treasures, items made famous in her stories, and artwork inspired by her vision of the prairie. For scholars, it will be a chance to explore, firsthand, some of her most insightful original works and papers."

In addition to Burns, former First Lady Laura Bush has noted, "Willa Cather's literature gives voice to the values that define America's frontier heritage. By reading her words and promoting her contributions to western culture, we commemorate the pioneering spirit that distinguishes us a nation."

More Information

More Information
More Information

Download our campaign brochure to learn more about the National Willa Cather Center, the Foundation's collections, and how you can help make this dream a reality. For more information or to get involved, contact Ashley Olson, Executive Director, aolson@willacather.org, 866-731-7304. Please donate now and share the news on social media! #fundnwcc