Seven cities, one book

Published 9:43 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Themes from Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” like themes from many dystopian novels, continue to be mirrored in reality many years after they were published.

It was those themes that caused the organizers of a regional literary project to choose Bradbury’s novel as the focus point for their “7 Cities, 1 Book” initiative.

“There are just so many wonderful themes in the book that are so relevant today,” Suffolk Art League Executive Director Linda Bunch said. “Control of information, distribution of information, privacy and things that are so much in the news now are discussed in this book, which was written 60 years ago. The topics that he chose are still so relevant.”

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The 7 Cities, 1 Book project started with an attempt — ultimately unsuccessful — to get a National Endowment for the Arts grant for a Big Read program.

“They have a list of books that you have to choose from,” Bunch said. “That was sort of how we got to Fahrenheit 451.”

Bunch contacted Suffolk Library Director Clint Rudy, who was enthusiastic about the proposal, Bunch said. It continued to balloon from there, at first including institutions in Portsmouth and Chesapeake and then all of Hampton Roads.

When the project didn’t secure the grant funding it was hoping for, Bunch said, the organizers simply scaled down a bit and pressed forward. The planning stage has been in full swing for more than a year.

“Each participating entity is planning and paying for their own programming, while we’re doing some joint things like paying for the brochure,” Bunch said.

Suffolk alone is hosting about a dozen events between the Suffolk Art Gallery, the Suffolk Art League (located at the gallery) and Morgan Memorial and North Suffolk library branches.

It all starts Saturday with kickoff events in Suffolk.

“The big one is this Saturday, and it’s also going to serve as the regional kickoff for the event,” Bunch said.

The North Suffolk Library will host a day of fun and activities on Saturday, while the art gallery will have a free opening reception, from 7 to 9 p.m., for a juried exhibition of work responding to Bradbury’s novel. The exhibition runs through May 29 and includes “some very interesting, very thoughtful work,” Bunch said.

Activities to get kids involved mostly focus on real-life firefighters, playing on the title and plot of the book. On April 25, children can visit the fire safety house starting at 11 a.m. at the Morgan Memorial Library to learn about fire safety. They can also attend firefighter storytime and meet a real firefighter, on April 29 at the Morgan Memorial Library and on May 9 at 6 p.m. at the North Suffolk Library.

Kids can also make their own comics and get a free comic book at 2 p.m. May 2 at the Morgan Memorial Library.

Other related events in Suffolk include:

  • Street Style Graffiti Journal workshop — Suffolk Art Gallery, 1 to 4 p.m. April 26; work with paper, canvas, fibers, stencils and spray paint to create graffiti-inspired designs and textures; ages 16 and up; $38 for Suffolk Art League members or $45 for non-members; call 925-0448 for more information
  • Beautiful Bezels: Beginners’ Torch Soldering Workshop — Suffolk Art Gallery, 1 to 4 p.m. May 3; learn the basics of torch soldering, cutting, filling and hamering copper to make beautiful round bezels that can be made into pendants; age 18 and up; $60; call 925-0448 for more information
  • Altered Book Workshop — North Suffolk Library, 6 p.m. May 5; get hands-on and make a book into a beautiful new piece of art; call 514-7150
  • Altered Book Workshop with Nikki Webb — Suffolk Art Gallery, 1 to 4 p.m. May 9; ages 18 and up; $60; use a variety of techniques and materials to turn a discarded book into a work of art
  • Poetry, Prose and Pizza with host Nathan Richardson — Suffolk Art Gallery, 6 to 8:30 p.m. May 14; share poems, prose and songs at a special, “Fahrenheit 451”-inspired open mic night; free and open to the public

“We want people to read the book and enjoy some of the programming that’s planned,” Bunch said.

Pick up copies of the program guide at any participating location or visit for the guide, which includes a complete listing of the programs in other cities.