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book cover of The Best We Could DoThe mission of the NEA Big Read is to "broaden understanding of our world, our communities and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book."

"For 15 years the NEA Big Read has supported opportunities for communities to come together around a book, creating a shared experience that encourages openness and conversations around issues central to our lives," said Ann Eilers, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. "We congratulate Eastern Connecticut State University for receiving an NEA Big Read grant and look forward to a wide variety of meaningful community events."

 

The NEA Big Read offers a range of 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.

 

Eastern's Big Read calendar of events is still being finalized and will feature a host of virtual and in-person events including a keynote presentation by author Thi Bui; a graphic novel-inspired art exhibition from Oct. 15-Dec. 5 that will highlight communities of immigrants, refugees and incarcerated people; a post-Vietnam War theatrical collaboration; a workshop with Marcelino Truong, author of "Such a Lovely Little War; and more.

 

As part of the art exhibition, Eastern's Art Gallery will host conversations with Jeffrey Greene, coordinator of the Prison Arts Program at Community Partners in Action, Hartford; members of the Prison Arts Collective at San Diego State University; Keri Watson of the Florida Prison Education Project; and more.

"We're inspired by the creativity of this year's NEA Big Read grantees, who are finding new ways to bring people together after a challenging year," said Torrie Allen, president and CEO of Arts Midwest. "We are proud to support these organizations and communities as they explore the richness and diversity of American history and culture together through reading."

 

Eastern is one of three organizations in Connecticut to receive a Big Read grant this year - the others are Hartford Public Library and Ferguson Public Library - and the only to select "The Best We Could Do" as its Big Read book.