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Willa Cather Foundation to Create National Willa Cather Center

Willa Cather Foundation to Create National Willa Cather Center

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

WILLA CATHER FOUNDATION TO CREATE NATIONAL WILLA CATHER CENTER

Red Cloud, Nebraska—The Willa Cather Foundation announced today its plans to build the National Willa Cather Center, a public museum, archive, and arts and cultural center. The facility, which will be located in Cather’s childhood home of Red Cloud, Nebraska, will provide almost 20,000 square feet of space that includes a public museum, state-of-the art archive, research center, classroom, expanded bookstore and art gallery, dressing rooms and backstage facilities for the Red Cloud Opera House, street-level retail space, and three residences to house visitors. The Center will occupy Red Cloud’s historic “Moon Block” building following a restoration of the 1886 structure. 

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.” Tom Gallagher, Willa Cather Foundation board president explained, “The vision for the National Willa Cather Center was created more than a decade ago. When the Moon Block renovations are complete, the building will house an archive allowing us to preserve and share our nearly 5,000 Cather treasures that are now safely in storage.” Gallagher added that retail space will also be included to serve the nearly 10,000 Cather fans who visit Red Cloud each year. “We have raised a majority of the funds we need,” Gallagher said. Those funds came from state and federal grants, private funders and foundations. He added, “Now, we’re asking the public to help us raise the remaining funds to complete this truly unique Center.” To continue the fundraising campaign and meet a $400,000 challenge grant offered by the Peter Kiewit Foundation of Omaha, Nebraska, the Willa Cather Foundation must raise $144,000 by June 30th. 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.Gallagher explained that the Foundation will utilize both traditional communication methods as well as social media for fundraising and public outreach during the campaign. “Willa Cather’s work is as relevant today as it was over 100 years ago,” added Gallagher. “There are so many Cather and classic literature fans sharing their passion on social media. We hope they will donate as well as spread the word.” Gallagher added that the Foundation is also enjoying an increase in tourism as visitors discover all the Midwest has to offer. Founded in 1955, The Willa Cather Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting understanding and appreciation of the life, time, settings, and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather. The Foundation currently owns or manages 11 properties connected with Willa Cather, including a 612-acre prairie, her childhood home, and the Red Cloud Opera House. Conferences, seminars, as well as arts and humanities events are held by the Foundation year-round in Red Cloud and internationally. Visit www.WillaCather.org to learn more.

More About the National Willa Cather Center (NWCC):

Please see attached PDF file.

About the Willa Cather Foundation

The Willa Cather Foundation was founded in 1955, through the efforts of a small group of volunteers in Red Cloud, Nebraska, led by Mildred R. Bennett. Today the Foundation is directed by a twenty-eight member Board of Governors that includes nationally recognized scholars, business people, and professionals from across the United States. The Willa Cather Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting understanding and appreciation of the life, time, settings, and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather.For the first twenty years of its existence, the Willa Cather Foundation concentrated on preserving and restoring sites important to the life and works of Willa Cather. Today, six of the properties originally acquired and restored by the Willa Cather Foundation are owned by the Nebraska State Historical Society and managed by the Willa Cather Foundation. These sites are the Farmers and Merchants Bank, the Cather Childhood Home, Grace Episcopal Church, St. Juliana Falconieri Catholic Church, the Burlington Depot, and the Pavelka Farm, located fourteen miles north of Red Cloud. In addition, the Willa Cather Foundation owns and manages the 1885 Red Cloud Opera House, the Baptist Church, the Harling House, and the Moon Block. Together with Red Cloud’s “Willa Cather Thematic Group” of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, they comprise the largest collection of historically significant sites dedicated to a single American author. The Willa Cather Foundation also owns and manages the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, a 612-acre tract of unbroken prairie located five miles south of Red Cloud.

For the more than 10,000 tourists and Cather fans who visit Red Cloud each year, the Foundation offers:

 Town tour: Visitors can explore and learn about the buildings and sites related to the life and writings of Willa Cather, including the Cather Childhood Home and the Burlington Depot.

 Country tour: Tourists can enjoy rural Webster County, highlighting landmarks and buildings related to Cather's writing. Visitors will see the inspiration for some of Cather’s most moving scenes, such as the suicide grave from My Ántonia and the beautiful Divide.

 Gallery and bookstore: Visitors will enjoy our spacious, historic art gallery and the many award winning artists and exhibits displayed there. Our bookstore, located one the first floor of the beautiful Opera House, boasts an unparalleled collection of books written by and about Willa Cather, in addition to a broad selection of titles on the Great Plains and its history, and related topics. Browse our Cather t-shirts, prints, gifts and cards, or complete your Cather library!

 Prairie: The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie is an essential piece of our holistic approach to Cather study and appreciation. This 612-acre, relict prairie offers visitors a rare glimpse Nebraska’s past, with more than 250 native species and the same unbroken horizon Cather experienced when she arrived on the Great Plains.

 Film: Visitors may view the 17-minute film, “Willa Cather’s Home.” This overview helps people of all ages to better understand the important part Red Cloud played in Willa Cather’s life and career. 

    Performances: The Red Cloud Opera House hosts programming year-round, ranging from community theater and musical presentations to humanities lectures and film screenings. The fully restored Opera House was, in Cather’s time, and continues to be the most important cultural center in our rural area.