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Kurt Vonnegut is the inspiration for IU Bloomington’s first summer kickoff festival

Musical acts to include Father John Misty, Noname, Oh Sees, Shabazz Palaces, Amy O

For Immediate Release Mar 22, 2018

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Indiana University Bloomington Arts and Humanities Council will present its first summer kickoff festival May 10 to 12 with Granfalloon: A Kurt Vonnegut Convergence.

The festival will include a two-day academic conference of panels and keynote speakers, musical performances in multiple venues around the city, theatrical performances at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, an archival exhibit at the Lilly Library, and games and other activities inspired by the life and work of the Indianapolis novelist. It inaugurates the council’s plans to create long-term collaborations between the campus and the wider Bloomington arts community. Local partners include Upland Brewery, Secretly Canadian, Cardinal Stage, the City of Bloomington, and various area restaurants and venues.

Kurt Vonnegut receives an honorary degree from IU.
Kurt Vonnegut received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from IU in 1973. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

“Granfalloon,” a term from Vonnegut’s renowned novel “Cat’s Cradle,” refers to a group of people brought together for a seemingly arbitrary purpose, but whose sense of belonging and community is nevertheless very real. The festival will mark the Arts and Humanities Council’s most extensive off-campus programming to date, following a series of smaller partnerships with community members and arts organizations in Bloomington through the First Thursdays Festival, China Remixed and India Remixed

“We see the Granfalloon as an opportunity to introduce our students to the vibrant cultural life of Bloomington in the summer and to share the scholarly and artistic expertise on our campus with the people of Bloomington who have been supportive of the council’s efforts,” said Ed Comentale, council director and IU Bloomington vice provost for arts and humanities. “We’re very proud of the lineup we’ve put together for the festival, and we think the musical acts alone rival any summer festival in the region.”

Grammy-winner and noted Vonnegut fan Father John Misty will headline the festival’s musical acts with a solo performance at Upland Brewery on the evening of Friday, May 11. Opening acts that night will include Damien Jurado and Rodeola. The evening of Saturday, May 12, will feature a clubfest of nine different acts in three separate venues: The Bluebird, The Bishop and Rhino’s Youth Center. Clubfest performers will include Noname, Oh Sees, Shabazz Palaces, Amy O and more. Cardinal Stage will present two staged readings of a musical adaptation of Vonnegut’s novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” on May 11 and 12 at the John Waldron Arts Center.

Father John Misty
Father John Misty

Festival passes will be available through the Buskirk-Chumley Theater box office at 114 E. Kirkwood Ave. starting at noon March 23. Festivalgoers can purchase a Weekend Pass that includes access to all shows, a Friday Night Pass for performances at Upland, or a Clubfest Pass for all Saturday night performances. Individual show tickets for Clubfest performances will be on sale beginning at noon April 6. Admission to all academic presentations is free and not ticketed.

The council chose Vonnegut as the scholarly focus and inspiration for the summer festival because of his status as an iconic Hoosier author, his continued popularity among readers of all ages, and his lifelong devotion to the arts as a form of civic engagement.

“Vonnegut is famous for his dark humor, but he was also an outspoken humanist and staunch defender of civic organizations and democratic principles,” Comentale said. “We view him as a presiding spirit over the festival, and we hope our gathering of diverse people enjoying eclectic art forms would make the old man smile behind his Pall Malls.”

The festival will invoke the connections between art and civic life found in Vonnegut’s work with a series of panels and a keynote presentation May 12 in Bloomington City Hall Council Chambers. Game booths and hands-on activities will be presented in the City Hall Atrium that morning and afternoon, coinciding with the Bloomington Farmer’s Market.

IU Bloomington has significant connections to Vonnegut and his work going back decades. Vonnegut was a faculty member at the IU Writers’ Conference in 1964, and then-IU President John Ryan presented him with an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1973.

IU’s Lilly Library is home to the largest collection of Vonnegut books and manuscripts in the world. The Lilly Library’s archival materials include manuscripts and early drafts of many Vonnegut novels, original drawings from Vonnegut, and personal and business correspondences. Select works from the collection will be on exhibit at the Lilly Library throughout the festival, and librarians will give guided tours of the exhibit beginning Thursday, May 10. All academic panels and the keynote address on Friday, May 11, will be held at the Lilly Library.

“The Vonnegut Collection is one of the most popular manuscript collections at the Lilly Library,” said Isabel Planton, public services librarian at the Lilly and one of the panelists at the Granfalloon academic conference. “In 2017, the collection saw an enormous amount of use for research projects and in-class presentations. Items from the collection were used 125 times during the year for projects large and small. In addition to the research potential of this rich collection, it also attracts fans who just love Kurt Vonnegut’s work and want to see his original drafts and doodles.” 

The collection also attracts internationally acclaimed Vonnegut scholars, several of whom will participate in the academic conference, such as Dan Wakefield and Ginger Strand. Wakefield is the editor of “Kurt Vonnegut: Letters” and “Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories,” which includes five previously unpublished stories that Wakefield found in the Lilly Library’s collection. He visited IU Bloomington in November 2017 to discuss his work in the archives.

Strand is the author of “The Brothers Vonnegut: Science and Fiction in the House of Magic,” which explores Kurt’s relationship with his brother Bernard, who was a star scientist at General Electric, where Kurt worked for years in public relations. Strand will deliver the conference’s final keynote address with “The Brothers Vonnegut: A Slideshow about Kurt, Bernie and the Mad (but True) Science of Weather Control.”

The Arts and Humanities Council was created in 2015 by IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel as part of the university’s Campus Strategic Plan.

Additional ticketing information and a full schedule of events for Granfalloon can be found at the festival website.

Media Contact

Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President

Joe Hiland

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