Home News & Events 2020-21 NEA Big Read Grants Announced

2020-21 NEA Big Read Grants Announced

Over $1 Million in Grants Support Community Reading Programs Nationwide


For their NEA Big Read kick-off event on May 13, 2020, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, Connecticut, hosted author Stephanie Burt—author of “Advice From The Lights”—in an online conversation with Eric Maroney. Screenshot courtesy of International Festival of Arts & Ideas.

Each year, the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read initiative brings communities together around the shared activity of reading and discussing a book. Today, the Arts Endowment is announcing funding for 84 organizations to lead NEA Big Read projects between September 2020 and June 2021, providing a range of activities—in person or virtually—around a book selected from the NEA Big Read library.

“We have become even more aware this year of the important ways the arts help us connect with others, and how they bring meaning, joy, and comfort to our lives,” said Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “These 84 organizations leading NEA Big Reads will provide opportunities for deep discussion and ways to help us better understand one another.”

“We are honored to continue our partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts on this incredible program,” said Torrie Allen, President & CEO of Arts Midwest. “For more than 14 years this national effort has invested in communities as they gather to discuss the stories and ideas that connect us to one another. We are especially inspired by the projects and organizations that are finding new, virtual ways of creating those connections with their communities and are thrilled to support them at this critical time.”

The NEA Big Read is a National Endowment for the Arts initiative in partnership with Arts Midwest, which manages the grant program. Each NEA Big Read grantee has selected a title from the NEA Big Read library and will hold a variety of in-person or virtual events and discussions designed to both highlight the book and encourage participation among a wide range of community members. Among the books selected this year are Hope Jaren’s Lab Girl, Madeline Miller’s Circe, and Luis Alberto Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North. Since 2006, more than 5.7 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event.

Each organization is receiving a grant ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 for their project, totaling $1,157,000. Projects will take place in 32 states and Puerto Rico, in communities ranging from Columbus, Georgia (Chattahoochee Valley Libraries), to Stillwater, Oklahoma (Stillwater Public Library), to Enterprise, Oregon (Fishtrap).

Learn more about the Big Read grantees:

See grants sorted by organization name See grants sorted by state See grants sorted by book

“For more than 14 years this national effort has invested in communities as they gather to discuss the stories and ideas that connect us”
—Torrie Allen, Arts Midwest President & CEO

About the NEA Big Read
The National Endowment for the Arts Big Read, a partnership with Arts Midwest, broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Showcasing a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, the NEA Big Read aims to inspire conversation and discovery. Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,600 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $22 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past 14 years, grantees have leveraged more than $50 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 5.7 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, approximately 91,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and 39,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible.

Visit arts.gov/neabigread for more information about the NEA Big Read, including reader resources—such as book overviews, discussion questions, and interviews with the authors—as well as community stories from past NEA Big Read grantees.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
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 Arts Endowment 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 arts.gov to learn more.

About Arts Midwest
Arts Midwest believes that creativity has the power to inspire and unite humanity. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest grows, gathers, and invests in creative organizations and communities throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six nonprofit United States Regional Arts Organizations, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 30 years. For more information, visit artsmidwest.org.