The Cather Foundation is pleased to help initiate the first One Book/One State project in Nebraska. My Ántonia by Willa Cather is an excellent choice for the first state reading project. It is an exceptionally successful novel, so successful, in fact, that the book was chosen by the city of Chicago in 2002 for their One Book/One City project. In addition, it is a Nebraska book by a Nebraska author. It details the history of homesteading and the making of community in Nebraska; however, it transcends Nebraska to become a story of the making of communities all across America. Thus it is a book that citizens throughout the nation have come to cherish. It truly is a book that all Nebraskans should read, discuss in community settings, and enjoy. This novel employs the art of storytelling and the stories are about us; these stories provide a glimpse into our past and are guideposts to our future.
In My Ántonia, Willa Cather affirms that memory (in the form of stories) is one of the “materials out of which countries are made.” Cather suggests through her emphasis on stories that these memories are, in fact, central building blocks to forming a civilization and that the store of memories must be common to the body of people who inhabit a country. Further she proposes that these stories need to be passed on from generation to generation as building blocks for the future. Memories in the form of literature, indeed, do not come in the form of time-lines, dates, and facts; they come instead in the form of human experiences told in the context of storytelling.
These ideas are central to the activities of the One Book/One State: My Ántonia project and to the 50th Anniversary of the Cather Foundation to be celebrated at the Spring Festival on April 29-30, 2005, to be held at the Cather Center in Red Cloud, Nebraska. This conference may, in fact, play an additional role in providing a venue for those reading My Ántonia to gather additional information about the book and participate in the celebration of Willa Cather, the Foundation, and the novel.
“Prairie Song,” an acrylic painting by Mary Linnea Vaughan, is the central image chosen for promotional materials for the One Book One State Nebraska Reads My Ántonia project to be completed in the spring of 2005. The painting was inspired by the countryside around Red Cloud, Nebraska, in the summer of 2004. This is the same countryside that inspired Willa Cather to write my My Ántonia.
“Prairie Song” was one of several paintings completed in an artist-in-residence project sponsored by the Willa Cather Foundation and the Nebraska Arts Council. Mary Linnea Vaughan, a native Nebraskan, now lives in Santa Rosa, California, where she works as a professional artist. Mary is a landscape painter and is interested in the earth and organic forms. She has an MFA from Maine College of Art and an MA from Rhode Island School of Design. She has painted extensively Ireland, France, and various parts of the United States and has had wide experience as an art teacher.
Mary is an ardent Cather fan. She has attended all of the International Seminars sponsored by the Cather Foundation. While working as an artist-in-residence at Red Cloud in the summer of 2004, Mary read Cather works continuously and used Cather’s works as inspiration for her paintings.
Those attending the 2005 Spring Festival in Red Cloud, Nebraska, April 29-30, can look forward to an exhibition of Mary’s paintings from her recent prairie experience here in Nebraska. The paintings will hang in the Gallery of the Cather Center during the month of May.
For more information about the artist, visit http://www.maryvaughan.com/default3.asp.
The State Committee is chaired by Sue Maher, Graduate Program Chair, University of Nebraska-Omaha. Members of the committee include the following: