Help the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library Find a Home

The library turns to Kickstarter to raise funds for a new location on Mass Ave.

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So it goes: The building that houses the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is up for sale. Now, the volunteers who run it need your help to save the legacy of Indy’s most famous author—and are seeking to raise approximately $35,000 in the next week via Kickstarter to secure a new spot.

Since its opening in 2009, the KVML has collected a plethora of Vonnegut memorabilia, works, and exhibits. From his old typewriter to his lost pack of Pall Mall cigarettes, to family photos and rejection letters from editors who didn’t understand his satirical mind, the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Welcome to the Monkey House is brought back to life.

Photo of Front of Current Location
The library’s location in the Emelie Building on Senate Avenue is already too small—a quarter of the collection is in storage due to lack of space. Now that the building is for sale, its organizers are eyeing a new location at 646 Massachusetts Avenue, just blocks away from buildings that Vonnegut’s architect father and grandfather helped design. Here’s what they’d like to offer:

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 3.36.46 PM*New exhibitions focused on Slaughterhouse-Five and censorship

*More gallery space

*More arts and humanities programming space for students of all ages to reflect on the importance of free expression and common decency

*A classroom and gathering space for students and children

But all that costs more than the nonprofit organization has. If it reaches the goal set forth on the Kickstarter page, it will be able to initiate phase one of the library: opening the ground floor of the new building. Organizers plan to start another campaign later for donations for an elevator in the building so they could eventually open the second floor. Even the first floor, though, is some 1,000 square feet of room more than the current location has.

So what does the KVML do besides display cool old stuff? It often participates in censorship rallies, and awards scholarships to students at Vonnegut’s alma mater, Shortridge High School. Through its partnership with Indy’s soccer team, Indy Eleven, the library holds art exhibits and shows to support local artists in the community. The library has also partnered with Visit Indy for the Year of Vonnegut celebration next year, 10 years after his death. There will be special events each month to celebrate Indianapolis and Vonnegut, such as panel discussions, films and interviews about the author shown at Indy Film Fest, and a three-day summer teacher workshop to help teachers incorporate Vonnegut into their lesson plans in new and creative ways. The CEO and founder of the KVML, Julia Whitehead, says she and her staff—composed of mostly volunteers and interns—help bring something unique to the community through this library. They have received guests from all over the world who said they came to Indy just to see the library.

With an overall goal of $750,000 for the building, volunteers at the museum have set up a Kickstarter campaign to ask for donations for the new location. Currently at just over $64,000 of the $99,999 set goal, the deadline for donations ends on July 14. If at least $99,999 is pledged by the deadline, the staff at KVML will feel confident about signing a lease to the new Mass Ave location, according to Whitehead. To encourage donations, there are incentives on Kickstarter for donors who pledge certain amounts. Rewards like “a warm thank you,” or your name on the KVML website if you pledge $5 or more, or having your name included in an original art piece that will be displayed in the new library for a donation of $25 or more, are the most popular picks. The highest reward, for a pledge of $10,000, is receiving a signed copy of the schematic sketch of the new library drawn by the author’s nephew, Scott Vonnegut, and two tickets to the opening gala of the library next spring, plus the prizes from the $5–$100 categories. Out of the 10 offered on Kickstarter, one West Coast lover of Vonnegut has received this reward for his $10,000 pledge.

“Failure on Kickstarter is not an option,” says Whitehead. “We have always been a grassroots-effort kind of organization. It’s the true believers in Vonnegut that step up.” With just one week left for donations, Whitehead and the KVML are confident they will reach their goal and be able to sign the lease for the new building. “We are stressed,” she says, “but we are working our tails off to make it happen.”

Donations will be accepted here until 5 p.m. on July 14.

 

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