“Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. in a letter to Ms. Lockwood’s class at Xavier High School
The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library is proud to partner with teachers and students of all ages all over the country to honor Kurt Vonnegut’s dedication to arts education.
We know that getting students to engage with reading can be a challenge. But when we introduce them to Vonnegut, something magical happens. Students are laughing; they’re discussing; they’re thinking deeply and grappling with every complex facet of what it means to be human.
That’s why the Vonnegut Museum and Library is helping to bring Vonnegut to classrooms from California to Pennsylvania with our Teaching Vonnegut Workshop. And we’re doing it at no cost to teachers.
Kurt Vonnegut’s sense of humor and willingness to speak out is irresistible to students, after you get them to open the book.
Since 2011, we’ve reached over 500 students in ten states with our teacher training program, hosted annually in Indianapolis. We’ve even taken our program on the road twice; once to Baltimore City Schools and Towson University and again in 2018 to Chicago. We love teaching and exposing a whole new set of young minds to Vonnegut’s ideals of peace, kindness, common decency, and the joy of creativity.
Want to see what Vonnegut can do for your classroom? Sign ups for our July 2019 Indianapolis workshop are open now. Sign up HERE.
Workshops and Guest Speakers
We know that learners can be found far beyond the classroom. That’s why, in addition to our teacher workshops, we offer guest speakers and writing workshops for anyone who wants to make their soul grow. From our Banned Books Week speaker series (12 speakers in 6 days!) to our regular rotation of touring authors, the Vonnegut Museum and Library is committed to connecting community members with folks who have some great ideas.
For example, we’ve teamed up with the Indiana Writers Center to host a series of writing workshops for women veterans. The participants (ranging from a nonagenarian WWII veteran to our Founder/CEO who is an ex-Marine) spent six months creating and collaborating, and we’ve partnered with DePauw University, Indiana Women’s Prison and author Jacqueline Woodson to host a live-feed writing discussion with women inmates. This year, we’re working with Indiana Prison Writers Workshop to conduct writing workshops with inmates and introduce them to Kurt Vonnegut by providing copies of Vonnegut’s ground-breaking novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
Educational Tours for Learners of All Ages
Education is happening every day at the Vonnegut Museum and Library, from the time we raise the museum window shades in the morning to when we turn off Kurt’s typewriter at night. Our award-winning, dedicated tour guides are on hand to share Kurt Vonnegut’s story with the over 200,000 guests that have visited our museum space, and the number is growing every day!
We’ve recently collaborated with local firm Genius Fish to expand our tour programming to reach a K-12 audience, so there is truly something for everyone.
Want to bring your class, scout troop, club, or organization in for a tailored guided tour? Just email [email protected], and we’ll make it happen!
PLEASE NOTE: As of January 5, 2019, the lease at our Senate Avenue location expired, which means, currently, there is no physical museum/library available to the public. However, we would love to bring events/discussions to schools, prisons, and other locations while we finalize efforts to acquire a new building.
The Kurt Vonnegut and Jane Cox Vonnegut Writing Awards
Thanks to the Vonnegut family’s generosity, we offer two scholarships each year to promising young writers from Kurt’s alma mater, Shortridge High School. We couldn’t be more proud to help support the next generation of great artists!
“There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library (KVML) thinks Vonnegut’s imagination is worth sharing with a new generation. That’s why, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the release of Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, we are undertaking one of the boldest programmatic efforts in our history.
We’re working with Penguin Random House, Indiana State Library, and other partners to give away to students copies of Slaughterhouse-Five, called one of the most influential books in the 20th Century. And beginning in February, we started our distribution of up to 86,000 copies, one each to every Indiana sophomore who wants to receive one. We are contacting each school and asking them to opt in for the free books. If schools choose not to opt in, we will work with Indiana public libraries to ensure that any high school sophomore who wants a copy will get a copy. If you are part of a high school and are eager to connect with us, please email Julia Whitehead at [email protected].
According to KVML CEO and Founder Julia Whitehead, “Slaughterhouse-Five is so important to me in my capacity as an arts educator because it’s not only an exciting fiction, but it’s also based, in part, on Vonnegut’s first-hand experiences as a soldier during World War II and as a prisoner of war under the control of the Nazis. Vonnegut carries the reader along with his humor and story-telling, but the factual details represented in the book help readers understand the war experience. What a brave soul Vonnegut was to share this story at a time when many people didn’t want to hear the truth about war. What a privilege it is to share this story through the generous giving of this book from our donors to our students.”
Whether or not you are a high school sophomore during this anniversary year, we encourage each of you to read or re-read Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. It makes a life-long impression on so many. Take, for instance, our friend and donor, Jim Lehrer, creator and long-time anchor of The Newshour on PBS. Here’s what he has to say about this book:
By the time I read Slaughterhouse-Five in 1969, I was already a rabid Kurt Vonnegut believer. His novels, Cat’s Cradle, Player Piano, and, my all-time favorite, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, had done that to me. In fact, as a just-discharged Marine in my first real job as a newspaper reporter in Texas, I was already planning my glorious fiction writer future as a Vonnegut-clone. I, too, would make people laugh so hard they cried and paid attention…
Then came Slaughterhouse-Five. Wow. And Wow. The World War II story of Billy Pilgrim and the firebombing of civilians in Dresden, Germany, blew me away. It was funny, yes, but it was a dark kind of funny to which I had never before been a worshipful party. It was particularly jarring because I knew enough about Vonnegut’s own life to realize that, in many ways, this was a dramatic “hear-this!” form of autobiography. That was underlined, of course, by the Vietnam anti-war climate of the moment.
I thought then that here was a book of death that would have a life that lasted forever.
And, I was right.
God bless you, Mr. Vonnegut.
So search the bookshelves at home or at your public library for this monumental piece of literature and read it. Or, better yet, purchase a copy from our online bookstore here.
In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut said: “And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.” If you read this book, either as an Indiana high school sophomore, a devoted Vonnegut fan, or someone who’s just curious, you might find the answers to this important, philosophical question. Enjoy the read in 2019!