Laura Bush Announces the Willa Cather Campaign for the Future
Today, we announce the Willa Cather Foundation's Campaign for the Future, a multi-million dollar campaign to restore eight Cather-related historic properties, expand educational programming, develop visitor amenities, and build endowment for the nonprofit organization devoted to the great American author.
The public phase of the campaign is being announced just one year after History Nebraska, a state agency, transferred ownership of six historic properties and about 8,000 artifacts to the Willa Cather Foundation. The state had owned the properties since 1978, but History Nebraska and the Foundation had operated the site together since 1994. It is the largest single collection of nationally-designated buildings devoted to an American author.
The Willa Cather Foundation is now raising the funds needed to restore the sites and enhance the visitor experience for tourists from forty-eight states and five countries who visit the National Willa Cather Center and Red Cloud annually.
Former First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Laura Bush is the honorary national chair for the campaign’s public fundraising effort. Mrs. Bush, who spoke at the Foundation’s dedication of the National Willa Cather Center in 2017, stated, “Through Willa Cather’s writing, we have a better understanding of one of the most remarkable and compelling periods in American history.” She continued, “The sites and collections that make up the National Willa Cather Center in Red Cloud are cultural treasures. Your generosity ensures that our children and grandchildren will be able to travel back in time to hear the ‘nimble air’ and learn from Willa Cather’s example for many generations to come.”
In addition to Mrs. Bush, writer and historian David McCullough noted, “The marvelous thing about going to Red Cloud, Nebraska, is you can walk right into Willa Cather’s world. There’s the house she lived in, the bank, the opera house, the railroad depot, and the landscape. It’s one of my favorite places in all of America.”
The Campaign for the Future has raised nearly $4.8 million or 74% of its $6.5 million goal already, with just under $2 million left to be raised. “Nebraskans have been very generous because they know we are fortunate to be home for such an iconic author,” said Ashley Olson, Executive Director. “We have had strong support from longtime friends and foundations and now hope to include individuals from across the country who appreciate Cather’s literature and value our work.”
Campaign funds will be used to restore eight historic properties, conserve newly acquired collection materials, expand educational programming, add exhibits, upgrade site interpretation, and invest in a downtown boutique hotel that will allow visitors to spend more time in Red Cloud. Olson said the highest site restoration priorities are Cather’s Childhood Home and the Pavelka Farmstead, which is central to Cather’s most celebrated novel, My Ántonia.
Adding to the success of the campaign is a Save America’s Treasures grant of $415,000 from the National Park Service for restoration of the Willa Cather Childhood Home—the jewel in the crown of the Foundation’s historic sites and a National Historic Landmark. The grant requires a 1:1 match in nonfederal funds. Gifts of all sizes are welcome. To donate, send your contribution, clearly labeled Campaign for the Future to the Willa Cather Foundation, 413 N. Webster, Red Cloud, NE 68970.