NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College and Kauffman Museum are joining in the second annual Wichita-area Big Read during October and November.
The reading initiative this year, which kicked off Oct. 3, features “Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe.”
Kauffman Museum and the Newton Public Library are co-hosting two public programs centered on aspects of Poe’s writing. This Sunday, Oct. 25, Aimee Siebert, Bethel College senior from Topeka, will speak on “Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher: How to Think about Tearing Down the House of Disregard for Mental Health,” at 3:30 p.m. Two weeks later, on Sunday, Nov. 8, also at 3:30 p.m., Ami Regier, Bethel College professor of English, will use a Kauffman Museum taxidermy specimen in her discussion of “Consciousness, Living Art and Taxidermy in 'The Raven.'” Both programs will be held at Kauffman Museum on the Bethel College campus and are free and open to the public.
One of the components of Wichita’s 2008 Big Read program that caught national attention was the integration of the arts and natural sciences into the reading program. The Wichita Art Museum is again providing appropriate artwork for use in promotional material for the Big Read, specifically one of the museum’s oil paintings, Mortality and Immortality (1876) by William Michael Harnett, which evokes Poe’s somber yet intriguing moods.
Mortality and Immortality is among the works featured in a special exhibit at the Wichita Art Museum through Sunday, Nov. 15. In “Edgar Allen Poe: A Visual Tribute,” Poe’s words come to life through pieces from the museum’s permanent collection, each accompanied by a quote from one of Poe’s many memorable stories.
Internationally renowned Poe interpreter David Keltz, who has brought Poe to life on stage and screen, comes to the Orpheum Performing Arts Centre Saturday, Nov. 7. For a complete schedule of additional companion exhibits, gallery talks, museum tours, lectures and, of course, book discussions, see www.bigreadwichita.org/Events/.
The NEA began the Big Read in 2006 in response to the report Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America. After the success of last year’s Big Read, featuring Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, partners looked for another work that would also spur the community to pick up and read books.
The selection of Edgar Allan Poe fit well with his historical background: 2009 is the bicentennial of his birth and October marks the 160th anniversary of his death. Poe shaped many of the most popular types of fiction today, including detective, horror and science fiction genres. His stories and poems are part of
American cultural literacy – references to his writings appear in countless other creative works.
Kauffman Museum, located on the Bethel College campus at 27th and North Main Streets in North Newton, is open 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tues.-Fri., and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the museum, which also includes admission to the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. For more information, call the museum at 316-283-1612 or visit its Web site, www.bethelks.edu/kauffman/.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.