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Upcoming Big Read program connects communities to 'where we live'

Published on June 17, 2024

Upcoming Big Read program connects communities to 'where we live'

NEA-funded program will explore New England-based novel ‘The Bear’

big read lead

Eastern Connecticut State University is the only organization in Connecticut to receive a Big Read award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for the 2024-25 academic year. Following the theme “Where We Live,” Eastern’s Big Read grant will support a yearlong community-reading program centered around the book “The Bear” by Andrew Krivak.

The University will release a detailed event calendar/website in the months to come.

“The Bear” is a New England-based novel set in the twilight of humanity, following the last two humans on earth as they learn to live in rhythm with nature. With the theme of “Where We Live” in mind, Eastern selected this book due to its regional proximity to the storyline and its reputation as a green campus.

Eastern is situated in the “Quiet Corner” of Connecticut, the last green tract between Washington D.C. and Boston, noted Patty Szczys, Eastern’s Big Read program director and executive director of the University’s Institute for Sustainability. “‘The Bear’ is set in the mountains of New England and includes a trek to the seashore and back, making the theme ‘Where We Live’ quite literal and relevant to our community,” said Szczys.

This year’s program will engage a wide range of audiences and partnering organizations. “We aim to connect literature and artistic creation to the environment, challenging participants to imagine a future that is sustainable,” said Szczys. “Throughout all of our programming, we aim to help connect our Eastern students and members of the public to our natural surroundings, helping to promote belonging in our region.”

Eastern’s 2024-25 Big Read program is still being organized. In addition to lectures, literary events and traditional book discussions, the program will engage participants in a variety of outdoor and science activities eastern Connecticut area. The University intends to partner with regional organizations that support environmental conservation/recreation, as well as local public schools.

Emphasizing the upcoming program’s interdisciplinary approach, Emily Todd, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and a collaborator on the grant, said: “Our program is rooted in the belief that the arts, humanities and sciences each offer unique perspectives that, when combined, let us understand the fragility of human life and create a powerful force to address environmental issues and imagine an alternative future.”

Todd added, “In addition to activities that connect participants to our local environment, we are also looking forward to incorporating creative writing workshops and author talks into the programming for the year.”

The programming is designed to appeal to individuals and families in the region who value outdoor experiences or who are looking for more opportunities to explore nature in the Quiet Corner, noted Szczys.

For more information and to inquire about becoming an Eastern Big Read partner, contact Patty Szczys at by July 1.

About NEA Big Read

An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our neighbors, and ourselves through the power of a shared reading experience. Showcasing a diverse range of themes, voices, and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and new discoveries and connections in each community. The main feature of the initiative is a grants program, managed by Arts Midwest, which annually supports dynamic community-wide reading programs, each designed around a single NEA Big Read title.

Written by Michael Rouleau