Kurt Vonnegut Mural39.772000, -86.152941

Kurt Vonnegut

Artist Pamela Bliss painted the Kurt Vonnegut mural as part of the Arts Council of Indianapolis’s 46 for XLVI mural initiative, a program designed and implemented when the city hosted the Super Bowl in 2012.


Kurt Vonnegut
b. 1922 – d. 2007

Literary Inspiration

Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture

Delivered 1986


345 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204

View on Map


Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture delivered at North Central High School, 1986

Kurt Vonnegut

All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.


Through the study of Vonnegut, you learn how to “make your soul grow.” Vonnegut was a soldier, writer, father, artist, lover of jazz, and voice for multiple generations who believed in free speech and common decency. His legacy is felt in Indianapolis and around the world.

Julia Whitehead, President
Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library

When I was born in 1922, barely a hundred years after Indiana became the 19th state in the Union, the Middle West already boasted a constellation of cities with symphony orchestras and museums and libraries, and institutions of higher learning, and schools of music and art, reminiscent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the First World War. One could almost say that Chicago was our Vienna, Indianapolis our Prague, Cincinnati our Budapest and Cleveland our Bucharest.

To grow up in such a city, as I did, was to find cultural institutions as ordinary as police stations or fire houses. So it was reasonable for a young person to daydream of becoming some sort of artist or intellectual, if not a policeman or fireman. So I did. So did many like me.

Such provincial capitals, which is what they would have been called in Europe, were charmingly self-sufficient with respect to the fine arts. We sometimes had the director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra to supper, or writers and painters, and architects like my father, of local renown.

I studied clarinet under the first chair clarinetist of our orchestra. I remember the orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, in which the cannons’ roars were supplied by a policeman firing blank cartridges into an empty garbage can. I knew the policeman. He sometimes guarded street crossings used by students on their way to or from School 43, my school, the James Whitcomb Riley School.

It is unsurprising, then, that the Middle West has produced so many artists of such different sorts, from world-class to merely competent, as provincial cities and towns in Europe used to do.


—Kurt Vonnegut, “To Be a Native Middle-Westerner” in NUVOMay 20, 1999

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis to a prominent German-American family. He is best known for his novels that combine science fiction, satire and dark humor such as Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut was a self-proclaimed humanist and socialist (influenced by the style of Indiana’s own Eugene V. Debs) and was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union. 


kurt vonnegut mural

345 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204


Closest IndyGo Stop:

Delaware Street & New York Street (Routes 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 38) 


How to Plan a Trip on IndyGo:  

  • Use the Trip Planner on IndyGo.net 
  • Use Google Maps (select “transit” as your travel method) 
  • Call IndyGo Customer Service at 317-635-3344 
  • Track your bus using the MyStop Mobile App 



View all locations

Learn more about Kurt Vonnegut at the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.


Here is a link to a post on artist Lance Miccio’s Facebook page, which shows a collection of his paintings that were inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five. The College of Charleston exhibited the collection this past February and March. Vonnegut himself said that “any work of art is one half of a conversation between two human beings,” and Miccio answered Vonnegut’s art with his own.  


Check out one of Vonnegut’s unique signatures, which he often adorned with a cartoon self-portrait complete with a comb-shaped mustache and a cigarette. We can’t help but wonder what his driver’s license looked like!


In this letter that Vonnegut wrote to students attending Xavier High School in New York City. The students had written Vonnegut asking him to speak at their school, and although he explained that he was no longer making public appearances, he offered the students and their teacher a lesson about growing one’s soul, framed in his distinctly wise, humanity-embracing style. 


This New Yorker article showcases 10 of Vonnegut’s drawings, which he described as being his escape from writing. A self-proclaimed doodler, Vonnegut believed that “practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.

Report Back.

Read the location passage. What questions would you ask the author? What would help you understand the author's viewpoint?

Added TEXTure.

Writing is about more than just words. Look around to discover what textures are most prevalent in this place. Do a texture rubbing using a piece of paper and a crayon or pencil.

In the Margins.

What inspires you most about this place? Draw a quick doodle of it in the margin of one of your books.

Found sound.

Walk around the location and record the sounds of surroundings. Did what you hear depend on what time you visited?

Backward / Forward.

Cities change—what did your location look like in 1920? What will it look like in 2120?


Find another perspective by walking to a different spot around this location. Do you notice anything new? Which of your five senses notices a change first?

Strike a Prose.

Write a short passage describing how this place inspires you.

Love Letter / BreakUp Letter.

Think about your relationship with the place you’re visiting or perhaps with your own neighborhood. Is it time to commit? Or time to let go? Write a letter as if you’re speaking directly to the place you have in mind.

Field Notes.

Explore your stream of consciousness by writing down every thought that enters your mind.