The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Program Comes to Spurlock overview image

The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read Program Comes to Spurlock

  • Post Date: 09/13/2018
  • Author: Beth Watkins
  • Reading Time: 4 minute read

A partnership among the Spurlock Museum, the International & Area Studies Library (external link), the Urbana Free Library (external link), the Champaign Public Library (external link), and the Art Theater (external link) is a recipient of a grant to host the NEA Big Read in Champaign-Urbana. Other project partners include the Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (external link), the Indian Cultural Society of Urbana-Champaign (external link), the Asian Educational Media Service (external link), and Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion (external link).

A national initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (external link) in partnership with Arts Midwest (external link), the NEA Big Read (external link) broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. This local partnership linking campus, Champaign, and Urbana is one of 79 nonprofit organizations to receive an NEA Big Read grant to host a community reading program in the winter of 2019. The NEA Big Read in Champaign-Urbana will focus on The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (external link), published in 2003 (and adapted into a feature film in 2006).

  • Photo of Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Book cover of The Namesake

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support opportunities for communities across the nation, both small and large, to take part in the NEA Big Read,” said NEA Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter. “This program encourages people to not only discuss a book together, but be introduced to new perspectives, discuss the issues at the forefront of our own lives, and connect with one another at events.”

The NEA Big Read showcases a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, aiming to inspire conversation and discovery. The main feature of the initiative is a grants program, managed by Arts Midwest, which annually supports dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single NEA Big Read selection.

Programming will take place in Spring 2019. Look for updates early this fall and on our website.

Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $19 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past eleven years, grantees have leveraged more than $44 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 4.9 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, approximately 82,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and 39,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible. For more information about the NEA Big Read, please visit (external link).

About the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Arts Midwest

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit (external link) to learn more about NEA.

Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership, and engages people in meaningful arts experiences, bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit (external link).

  • NEA logo

Images courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.