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National Willa Cather Center Meets Challenges, Enters Final Campaign Stage

National Willa Cather Center Meets Challenges, Enters Final Campaign Stage

Rendering of Archive
Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Willa Cather Foundation is pleased to announce it has raised $5.79 million in gifts and pledges to establish the National Willa Cather Center at Red Cloud, fulfilling a challenge grant deadline of June 30, 2014 from the Peter Kiewit Foundation of Omaha, Nebraska, as well as meeting a grant requirement of the Robert B. Daugherty Foundation.

"We are so grateful to the Peter Kiewit Foundation and Robert B. Daugherty Foundation as well as more than 170 other foundations and individuals who have invested in this project and allowed us to meet these challenges—and to do so in advance of the deadlines," said Ashley Olson, Executive Director. "This endeavor has been met with enthusiasm from several corners of the globe, and we are proud to have committed partners all across the country. Once complete, the Center will become a great Nebraska destination and provide an incredible tribute to one of America's greatest authors." 

The National Willa Cather Center project also received a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) in the Tourism Development Category through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED). Additional support comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and federal historic tax credits are also being pursued for the project.

The entire project is estimated to cost $6,700,000 and the Willa Cather Foundation is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to raise the balance needed. "Our next challenge is to raise the balance required of $903,000 by Spring 2015 in order to let bids and enter the construction phase in the secure knowledge that all necessary project funds have been pledged," said Olson. "We are eager to begin a preliminary phase of construction this fall, but want to be certain all financing is in place before we authorize the formal phase of construction next year."

Donors can send contributions to the Willa Cather Foundation, 413 North Webster Street, Red Cloud, NE 68970 or give online at www.WillaCather.org. The campaign is using the hashtag #fundnwcc. The Foundation is utilizing both traditional communication methods as well as social media for fundraising and public outreach during the campaign. Tom Gallagher, Willa Cather Foundation board president explained, "Willa Cather's work is as relevant today as it was over 100 years ago. There are so many Cather and classic literature fans sharing their passion for Cather's work on social media. We hope they will donate as well as help us spread the word about this project."

The National Willa Cather Center will be located within the restored "Moon Block" building in the center of Red Cloud's Main Street Historic District. The "Moon Block" was developed and built in 1886 by John W. Moon, a real estate investor and Michigan State Senator who would go on to become a U.S. Congressman. Built just three years after Willa Cather and her family moved to the area, the "Moon Block" would become a Red Cloud landmark and symbol of the town's promise. The "Moon Block" was home to numerous offices and retail businesses, and Cather would eventually weave it into her novels and short stories. "Soon it will enjoy a bright new life as the National Willa Cather Center—a world-class venue that will celebrate Cather's life and legacy," noted Olson.

While the building's focus will be a museum, archive, and collection space for public visitation, the restoration will also provide a greatly enhanced base of operations for the Willa Cather Foundation through an expanded bookstore, art gallery, and backstage facilities for the adjacent Red Cloud Opera House. Other elements of the project include main-street retail spaces for commercial businesses and loft apartments for visitors who come from across the globe to experience the world that Cather memorialized in her many works.

The Willa Cather Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit foundation founded in 1955, exists to perpetuate an interest throughout the world in the works, life, and times, of Pulitzer Prize-winning Nebraska author Willa Cather by preserving the historical settings and archival materials associated with her life and writings. In partnership with the Nebraska State Historical Society, the Willa Cather Foundation oversees and provides tours of the largest collection of nationally designated historic sites dedicated to a single American author. The Foundation provides an array of arts and educational programs in Nebraska and beyond. The organization is based in Red Cloud, Nebraska, and led by a small professional staff and a 28-member Board of Governors representing diverse interests, professions, and locations.

Ken Burns photo by Cable Risdon
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."

Click here to learn more about the creation of the new National Willa Cather Center. For more information or to get involved, contact Ashley Olson, Executive Director, aolson@willacather.org, 866-731-7304. Please donate by Spring 2015 and share the news on social media! #fundnwcc