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NEA Big Read & KVML

What Is the NEA Big Read?

National Endowment for the Arts -
The NEA Big Read is a collaborative initiative between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Arts Midwest to promote a shared reading experience among communities. Its primary objectives include:

  • encouraging meaningful conversations
  • highlighting local creativity
  • presenting diverse perspectives
  • fostering stronger community connections

Each year, the NEA Big Read supports select non-profit, government, and tax-exempt organizations nationwide through a grant managed by Arts Midwest. Grantees partner with local organizations to offer engaging community-wide reading programs that promote literacy and celebrate the unique aspects of their communities. 

Grantees design their programs around a single book they choose from a list provided by the NEA Big Read. Books in the list are selected based on their capacity to:
Arts Midwest

  • incite lively and deep discussion
  • interest lapsed and reluctant readers
  • challenge avid readers and introduce them to new voices
  • inspire innovative programming for communities

KVML is proud to have been selected by the NEA to participate in its 2023-2024 Big Read event and provide a series of programs for the Indianapolis community.

Jess Walter's The Cold Millions

The Cold Millions: A Novel by Jess Walter book cover

KVML chose Jess Walter’s The Cold Millions as the focus book for our NEA Big Read programming.

The Cold Millions is set during the period of American industrialization, an era in which Indianapolis has deep roots. The book delves into the historical significance of free speech and intersectional workers’ rights, exploring their relevance in a contemporary context of book banning, poverty, and overlooked American histories.

The literary study of The Cold Millions aligns with KVML’s continual efforts to champion both free speech and common decency locally, nationally, and beyond.


KVML is giving away free copies of The Cold Millions to all Big Read event attendees who sign up and don’t already own a copy.

KVML Big Read Events 2024

In Unity: Black History, Labor Reflections, and NEA Big Read Kickoff

Mon., Feb. 19 | 5:30 – 7 P.M.

Indiana Landmarks Center
1201 Central Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA

Join the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, Indiana Landmarks Black Heritage Preservation Program, IUI Arts and Humanities Institute, and the Indiana Remembrance Coalition to discuss the history of Black labor in Indiana with A’Lelia Bundles, Britt Redd, Jakobi Williams, James English, Eunice Trotter, and others.

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter Book Discussion

Mon., Feb. 21 | 5 – 6:30 P.M.

Indy Reads
1066 Virginia Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46203

KVML and Indy Reads invite you to a book discussion on The Cold Millions by Jess Walter, as part of KVML’s NEA Big Read programming. Secure your spot now and score a FREE copy of the book if you don’t already own one – because great stories are meant to be shared!

Exploring Labor and Union Struggles in The Cold Millions Era

Thu., Mar. 21 | 4:30 – 6:30 P.M.

Eugene V. Debs Museum
451 N. 8th St.
Terre Haute, IN 47807

Join us as KVML partners with The Eugene V. Debs Museum as part of our NEA Big Reads programming, offering profound insights into the historical backdrop of The Cold Millions, a novel by Jess Walter. Immerse yourself in the fascinating stories of local and global labor rights movements, setting the stage for a deeper understanding of the novel. Following the lecture, there will be a book discussion on The Cold Millions.

A Big Eye in the sky: solar eclipse Celebration

Mon., Apr. 8 | 10:00 – 3:30 P.M.

Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library
543 Indiana Ave
Indianapolis, IN 46220

“The Earthlings behaved at all times as though there were a big eye in the sky—as though that big eye were ravenous for entertainment.” – Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

On April 8th at 3:06 P.M., Indianapolis will be shrouded in darkness for three and a half minutes during the The Great American Eclipse. Join us for our solar eclipse celebration “A Big Eye in the Sky.” 

Spend the day at the community fair in our parking lot with literary entertainment and a book discussion of The Cold Millions by Jess Walter as part of our NEA Big Read programming. Secure your spot and score a FREE copy of the book if you don’t already own one – because great stories are universal! We will provide free viewing glasses from NASA, thanks to our friends at Visit Indy. More information to come soon.


Thu., Apr. 11 | 4:30 – 6 P.M.

Carmel Clay Public Library
425 E. Main St.
Carmel, IN 46032

KVML and Carmel Clay Public Library invite you to a book discussion on The Cold Millions by Jess Walter. Secure your spot now and score a FREE copy of the book if you don’t already have one – because great stories are meant to be shared!


Thu., May 16 | 7 – 9:15 P.M.

Garfield Park Conservatory
2505 Conservatory Dr.
Indianapolis, IN 46203

Join us at Garfield Park Conservatory when public historian and preservation activist Glory-June Greiff will provide an opening talk on the history of labor movements, followed by a screening of Cesar Chavez (2014) conducted by Indy movie historian Eric “Dr. Film” Grayson. The film follows renowned labor organizer and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.

Kathi Badertscher, PhD

Director of Graduate Programs at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
Kathi Badertscher, PhD, is Director of Graduate Programs at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Dr. Badertscher teaches a variety of BA, MA, and doctoral courses, including Applying Ethics in Philanthropy and History of Philanthropy. She has participated in several Teaching Vonnegut workshops and is a member of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. Dr. Badertscher has been a guest speaker on ethics in philanthropy, including at the National Association of Charitable Gift Planners – Indianapolis Council; Association of Fundraising Professionals – Indiana Chapter; and Zhou Enlai School of Government, Nankai University, Tianjin, China. In 2019 she received IUPUI Office for Women, Women’s Leadership Award for Newcomer Faculty. In 2019 and 2020 she received the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Graduate Teaching Award.
Dr. Badertscher’s publications include “Fundraising for Advocacy and Social Change,” co-authored with Shariq Siddiqui in Achieving Excellence in Fundraising, 5th ed., 2022; “Insulin at 100: Indianapolis, Toronto, Woods Hole, and the ‘Insulin Road,’ co-authored with Christopher Rutty, Pharmacy in History (2020); and three articles in the Indiana Magazine of History: “A New Wishard Is on the Way,” “Evaline Holliday and the Work of Community Service,” and “Social Networks in Indianapolis during the Progressive Era.” Her chapters on social welfare history will appear in three upcoming edited volumes on the history of philanthropy, including “The Legacy of Edna Henry and Her Contributions to the IU School of Social Work,” Women at Indiana University: Views of the Past and the Future, edited by Andrea Walton, Indiana University Press, 2022 (forthcoming). Dr. Badertscher is also the Philanthropy and Nonprofits Consulting Editor for the forthcoming Digital Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, edited by David J. Bodenhamer and Elizabeth Van Allen, Indiana University Press, 2021. Dr. Badertscher is an active volunteer in the Indianapolis community. At present, she is a Coburn Place Safe Haven Board Member and a Children’s Bureau/Families First Brand and Marketing Advisor. Dr. Badertscher holds the MA in History from Indiana University and the MA and PhD in philanthropic studies from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

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Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library Volunteer Application

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