Kurt Vonnegut Mural39.772000, -86.152941
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.
b. 1922 – d. 2007
Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture
345 Massachusetts Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture delivered at North Central High School, 1986
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 NUVO, May 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
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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.