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My Town Holland: "Big Read" grant to Hope College to support community program | Arts & Culture

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My Town Holland: "Big Read" grant to Hope College to support community program
My Town Holland: "Big Read" grant to Hope College to support community program

HOLLAND, Mich.- – A grant to Hope College through the “Big Read” program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) will support a broad-based effort to encourage reading community-wide during the month of November.

"The Big Read,” which is managed by Arts Midwest, is designed to revitalize the role of reading in American culture by exposing citizens to great works of literature and encouraging them to read for pleasure.  Hope is one of only 77 non-profit organizations nationwide to receive a grant to host a “Big Read” project between September 2014 and June 2015.

The Holland-area program will focus on “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee.  Hope is partnering with Herrick District Library, the Holland Museum, five area schools and others to organize reading groups and schedule a variety of related events throughout the month.

NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa said, “While the act of reading is usually a solitary one, through the Big Read it will become a social one. This year’s Big Read grant recipients are not only playing an important role in encouraging reading but are also developing creative opportunities to involve all members of their communities  to come together to discuss and celebrate these great works on literature.”

“The Big Read” provides communities nationwide with the opportunity to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 36 selections from U.S. and world literature. The 77 selected organizations will receive Big Read grants to promote and carry out community-based reading programs featuring activities such as read-a-thons, book discussions, lectures, movie screenings, and performing arts events. The NEA has also developed high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title, including reader’s guides, teacher’s guides, and audio programming, all of which are available to the public at neabigread.org.

The NEA awarded Hope $16,000 for the Holland-area event.  Hope and the other participating organizations will match the grant with additional financial and in-kind support.

The Hope grant’s administrator, Dr. Deborah Van Duinen of the college’s education faculty, believes that reading and discussing the award-winning “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the related activities will be an engaging and meaningful experience for participants of all ages, from teen through retiree.  A specialist in adolescent literacy and young-adult literature, she even guided students through “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a high school teacher herself before transitioning to higher education.

“This Pulitzer Prize-winning book deals with many different issues—coming of age, race, class, justice, ethical values.  These issues are just as relevant to us today as when the book was written in 1960,” said Van Duinen, an assistant professor of education.

The grant will provide funding for a month-long series of events and book discussions that will take place in November.  The events will begin with a keynote presentation and panel discussion at Hope College on Monday, Nov. 3, and will conclude with an art reception at the Holland Museum on Friday, Nov. 21.  As part of the grant, local artist Joel Schoon Tanis will work with students and teachers in five area high schools (Black River, Holland Public, New Tech, West Ottawa, Zeeland) to create pieces of art in response to the themes in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Details will be announced in the fall.

The NEA was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. More information is available at arts.gov.

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. More information is available at artsmidwest.org.