On Thursday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m., Stark Museum of Art will host award-winning novelist, playwright, teacher, and performer Denise Chávez in Ultima: A Healer For Our Times, a presentation about Rudolfo Anaya’s novel Bless Me, Ultima. Chávez will talk about Anaya’s novel and the relevance of its message in the modern world.

Drawing on her experience as a performer, she also will do a dramatic reading from the book. Chávez will present this program at the Lutcher Theater. A book signing and reception with light refreshments will follow at the Museum. Admission to the event is free to the public. For more information, visit www.starkmuseum.org.

“As we grow older and understand what life is about, the character of Ultima resonates with us more and more,” says Denise Chávez. “For me, Ultima represents the past generations. Thinking of her, I remember my mother, my aunt, my grandmother. In my presentation, I will explore Rudolfo Anaya’s classic character and the true meaning of her healing power.”

Chávez is one of the leading authors documenting the unique culture of the Mexican-American border. Like author Rudolfo Anaya, Chávez draws on the traditions of storytelling and folk dramas in the Hispanic Southwest. Chávez is also the author of many books including, The Last of the Menu Girls, a collection of interconnected coming of age stories.

Chávez’s presentation will be in conjunction with the exhibition Wild Beauty: The New Mexico Setting, which is on view at the Museum through June 8. Visitors to the exhibition will see works by Southwestern artists, such as Ernest Martin Hennings, Joseph Henry Sharp, Ernest Leonard Blumenschein, Nicolai Fechin and Georgia O’Keeffe. To stress the connection with the novel, quotes from the book are placed in different sections of the exhibition, both in English and in Spanish. The Museum will also provide tours in Spanish upon request. The Museum Store has copies of Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima and Chávez’s The Last of the Menu Girls for sale.

One week prior to the Chávez presentation, Lutcher Theater and Stark Museum will offer a viewing of the film Bless Me, Ultima (Rated PG-13) on Thursday, April 18, at 6:30 p.m. to take place at the Theater. This film is a turbulent coming-of-age story about a young boy, Antonio, growing up in New Mexico. When a mysterious curandera (healer) named Ultima comes to live with his family, she teaches him about the power of the spiritual world.  Through a series of mysterious events, Antonio must grapple with questions about the nature of divinity and his own destiny. Free general admission tickets for this program are currently available at the Lutcher Theater Box Office in advance or on the day of the viewing.

The film screening of Bless Me, Ultima and Chávez’s presentation Ultima: A Healer For Our Times are activities of the Southeast Texas Big Read. The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. For more information about The Big Read activities, visit http://library.lsco.edu/big-read/big-read.asp. Stark Museum of Art and Lutcher Theater are non-recipient partners.

Located at 712 Green Avenue in Orange, Stark Museum of Art is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Admission is free for STARK Cultural Venues members. Admission fees for the Stark Museum of Art are $6 for adults; $5 for seniors (age 65 and up), students (with ID), and youth (age 10-17); $2 for children (age 4-9); and free for toddlers (age 3 and under).  Group tours are available by appointment.

For more information, call 886-ARTS (2787) or visit www.starkmuseum.org .