On Tuesday, February 1, members of the St. Louis community, educators, and sponsors of the Big Read Book Festival came together in the Old Courthouse downtown to kick off a month-long festival celebrating Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
"The event was a great success, and the courthouse setting was both intimate and fitting for a discussion of Twain," said Erin Vlasaty, special events coordinator of Cultural Festivals and primary organizer of the Big Read initiative. "Keynote speaker Dr. Cindy Lovell, who is executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home, spoke on how the author's formative years in Florida and Hannibal, Missouri informed his novels and essays. She also discussed how Twain's political writings continue to have a lasting influence on the writing styles of American political commentators of our time."
The Kemper Art Museum has organized a special educational program in conjunction with the Big Read called Twain, Bingham, and the American Narrative. The program explores the rich symbolism and visual narrative strategies in George Caleb Bingham's legendary painting Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (1851-52), while drawing on key passages from Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Additional book discussion groups, theatre productions, writing competitions, and teacher and arts workshops are planned throughout the St. Louis area, all of which focus on themes from Twain's iconic novel.
The Twain, Bingham, and the American Narrative program also features a dramatic reading from the novel by St. Louis-based poet and literature performer Susan Shipman Cryer, an excerpt of which will be performed at the Museum's Open House for Educators on Saturday, February 13, 2-4 pm.