Mark Vonnegut Has a Message for Us

Mark Vonnegut is coming to town to talk about art, creativity, mental illness, and “the myth of mental wellness” as part of “The Uncle Dan and Sophie Jam” at The Jazz Kitchen on Tuesday, March 27, 6-8 pm. Tickets are $22.

Mark is the author of two absorbing memoirs, The Eden Express and Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness, Only More So. He is a practicing pediatrician in a town outside of Boston.

“I spent two years as part of Harvard Medical School’s admissions committee, where the shorthand for artistic accomplishment was ‘extras,’” Mark said.

“The arts are about as extra as breathing,” he added.

This message is especially crucial for Indianapolis right now, as the Indianapolis Business Journal has announced it will no longer be covering the arts. To implement this plan, the IBJ has laid off Lou Harry, its longtime writer on the arts.

Are the arts not a business, as well as a form of creativity, expression, beauty, and entertainment? Don’t people buy books, paintings, sculpture, tickets for plays, symphonies, movies, comedy shows, dances, singers and bands? Don’t they go to museums, pay to hear people speak about books and the arts? Don’t they pay for classes to learn to write stories, poems, memoirs, plays, novels and movies? Does no one pay to see The Heartland Film Festival, or attend events and talks and programs at The Vonnegut Museum and Library, Conner Prairie, and The Children’s Museum? Do these events and institutions not enhance and bring prestige to a community?

The sad situation of Lou Harry’s dismissal is made even more discouraging because – as far as I know – he was the only writer who wrote a regular column reviewing books and the arts. Last year a new book of Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories, the only volume to include every short story written by this city’s most renowned native author, received only one review in any Indianapolis publication. It was by Lou Harry in The IBJ.

How important are the arts? Our state is reeling from an Opioid epidemic, ravaging towns with young peoples’ suicides and prostitution. Mark Vonnegut, doctor and author, says “The arts are both a reason and a way to get well.”

Come to hear Mark talk about the arts with me and the brilliant saxophonist Sophie Faught for “The Uncle Dan and Sophie Jam” Tuesday, March 27, 6-8 pm at The Jazz Kitchen.

Oh – and Mark isn’t just talking; he is bringing his saxophone, too.

– Dan Wakefield

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Dan Wakefield

Dan Wakefield