Arkansas State University is teaming up with world-famous author John Grisham to host an event that will promote the television movie "A Painted House" and raise funds to benefit the university's newest doctoral program in heritage studies.
Dr. Les Wyatt, president of ASU, announced plans for the world premiere showing of the movie during a press conference last Wednesday. The showings will be held on April 14, beginning at 8 p.m., in the 975 seat Riceland Hall of Fowler Center.
"A world premiere is sort of unique for us," Wyatt said, adding that Grisham will make remarks prior to the movie's screening.
Proceeds from the premiere and associated events will be directed to an endowment fund for the ASU doctoral program in heritage studies in what Wyatt described as a unique funding activity.
"It's a great academic story that will be matched with a great fictional story," Wyatt said.
The heritage studies program, under the direction of Dr. Clyde Milner, began in the fall of 2001. The heritage studies doctoral degree will be the first one in the nation, thus hopefully causing many interested students to gravitate to the ASU campus.
Grisham himself asked that the screening be held at ASU, as Northeast Arkansas has always had a special remembrance for him. He was guest speaker for ASU's Spring Commencement ceremony in May 2000. Grisham's parents, Johnny and Wanda Grisham, lived in Black Oak, and when it was time for John's birth, they chose St. Bernards Hospital in Jonesboro for the big event. Grisham spent his early years in Black Oak, and started school at Monette in 1962.
A large part of the Painted House was shot in Lepanto and Clarkedale, and further enhanced regional public interest for Grisham's story. Tickets for the dinner and premier went on sale last Thursday morning, and the individual tickets were all sold out by Friday noon.
Six options are available for world premiere and dinner packages. Two $10,000 table package choices include a wine and cheese reception, dinner with Grisham, a signed copy of "A Painted House" and a ticket for the premiere for each person at the 10-person table. Tables may be sponsored by a business or an individual and may include a souvenir program with a complimentary full-page business advertisement. The second option includes the same, but with 10 friends and a half-page business ad. Other options include a $1,000 per person package for a group of 10 individuals, wine and cheese reception, dinner with Grisham and a signed copy of the book, premiere tickets and souvenir program, a $2,000 package of 20 tickets for the movie screening and a souvenir program with complimentary one-half page business ad, a $1,000 package of 10 tickets for a movie screening and a souvenir program with complimentary one-quarter page business ad, and individual $50 premiere tickets.
Hallmark Hall of Fame is paying all royalties and bearing expenses and cost for cast members planning to attend the gala. Their made-for-television movie will air on CBS on April 27.
Artifacts from the production of "A Painted House" will be placed on the site of the world premier for viewing. Many of these artifacts belong to the Emery families of Caraway and Lake City.
Needless to say, program director Milner was ecstatic about the generous gift to the university and to the heritage program. Proceeds from the world premiere fund-raiser are estimated to exceed $300,000.
"This fantastic fund raiser would never have been possible without the combined efforts of John Grisham and Dr. Wyatt," Dr. Milner said. "Everyone will benefit from this, especially the students."
Milner appears to be a wise choice of candidates for his new position at ASU, having earned quite an acclaimed reputation from those top in his field of studies. Dr. Milner earned his Ph.D. in American studies, from Yale University, having published several acclaimed historical books, and is a recipient of a wide cariety of outstanding honors and awards.
"We currently have 17 students enrolled in the program, and should add six more this fall," Dr. Milner said. "They are mature students, many who have full time jobs.
Dr. Milner's modest office is located on the seventh floor, Suite 706, of the Dean B. Ellis Library, on the ASU campus. Dr. Milner's secretary, Terry Thomas-Johnson, was a 1984 Monette High School graduate and is the daughter of Charles Thomas.
Although his office is small, Dr. Milner has big dreams for heritage studies. With the new endowment, Milner hopes to add a multi purpose seminar room, with room for a grad student office, desk, computers, and a gathering place to meet and plan.
"We need field study support and funding for graduate assistants," Dr. Milner added. "We have already attracted professionals from other colleges, universities, and businesses wanting to earn their doctoral degree here."
Dr. Milner is doing extensive short and long term planning, now that he has the potential endowment from the upcoming fund raiser. He is also working on how to invest the funds wisely, some for use now as well as growth for future.
The world premiere and the making "A Painted House" will go down in Northeast Arkansas history as a most memorable event indeed, and could well prove to be the foundation for a heritage study all by itself. Where else could you draw a 50 mile circle and encompass the birthplace and early childhood of a world-famous writer, the inspiration for a best selling book, the filming and production of a movie, and the world premier. This all goes full circle to what "A Painted House" is all about in the first place--a study of Northeast Arkansas cotton country culture, its people and its contribution.