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Ohio Arts Organizations Receive National Literature Grants

NEA Big Read logoTwo Ohio arts organizations have received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to present community reading programs.

The Center for Arts-Inspired Learning and the Massillon Museum were each awarded a $15,000 NEA Big Read grant, the NEA announced in a media release. This year, 79 NEA Big Read grants totaling more than $1 million were awarded in 34 states plus Puerto Rico.

NEA Big Read grants, which range from $5,000 to $15,000, are awarded to organizations such as school districts and universities, libraries, and arts organizations. Grant recipients use the funding to develop specific programming related to their Big Read book selection.

“The Ohio Arts Council is proud to have organizations from our state earn funding at the national level in recognition of their quality arts programming,” said Ohio Arts Council Executive Director Donna S. Collins. “The NEA Big Read program allows audiences of all ages to deeply engage with exemplary works of literature in a variety of contexts. The innovative programming offered by Ohio’s arts organizations encourages a lifelong love of reading and inspires community discussions on important issues impacting our world today.”

Massillon Museum Executive Director Alexandra Coon with renowned fantasy illustrator Charles Vess in Massillon Museum's main gallery. The original exhibition entitled Earthsea Imagined by Charles Vess coincided with the Museum's 2018 NEA Big Read book selection, For the 2018-19 program, the Massillon Museum will develop programming focused on Burning Bright, a novel by Ron Rash. In addition to distributing 1,600 books to the community, the museum is set to host Rash as its keynote speaker. Throughout 2019, the museum will offer programming that encourages the exploration of Massillon’s identity and Appalachian heritage. Visitors will be able to engage with a series of free public lectures, workshops, and family-friendly music and theatre performances.

The museum will also host Looking at Appalachia, a photography exhibition curated by Roger Moore. The exhibition will visually present some of the themes addressed in Rash’s book.

“The Massillon Museum is honored and thrilled to host the NEA Big Read for its 12th consecutive year,” said Megan Fitze, education and outreach manager at the Massillon Museum. “Next spring, the museum with the Massillon Public Library and numerous community partners will celebrate Burning Bright by Ron Rash.”

Cleveland’s Center for Arts-Inspired Learning is also a former NEA Big Read grant recipient. The Center, which was recently honored with a 2018 Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio in the Arts Education category, will offer arts programming related to Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Students participate in a graphic novel creation workshop hosted by the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning as part of its 2017-18 NEA Big Read programming, which centered on “We are excited to have the opportunity to once again partner with the NEA to highlight the importance of literacy not only in the city of Cleveland but all of Cuyahoga County,” said Center for Arts-Inspired Learning Executive Director Marsha Dobrzynski. “It is our hope that residents throughout the county will engage in our NEA Big Read celebration of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine and find meaningful connections to their daily lives.”

Part of the Center’s Big Read programming will include book discussions, movie screenings, poetry and creative writing workshops, and a county-wide poetry slam presented by Lake Erie Ink. More information is set to be announced in October.

Launched in 2006 as a partnership between the NEA and Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read initiative has provided more than $19 million to organizations, allowing more than 1,400 Big Read programs throughout the country to take place.

According to the release, 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. 

“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.”

To view a complete list of 2018-19 NEA Big Read grant recipients organized by state, visit:

More information about the program can be found at

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at

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 nonprofit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 30 years. For more information, visit

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA 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. For more information, visit


Article by Amanda Etchison, Communications Strategist

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