Bemidji State University is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant to host the NEA Big Read.

An initiative of the NEA in partnership with Arts Midwest, the Big Read project aims to broaden understanding of our world and our communities through the joy of sharing a good book.

Bemidji State is one of 78 nonprofit organizations to receive an NEA Big Read grant to host a community reading program between September 2019 and June 2020. The NEA Big Read in the Bemidji region will focus on “The Round House” by author Louise Erdrich. Activities will take place throughout the fall and spring semesters at BSU.

“The A.C. Clark Library at Bemidji State University is honored to have been selected for this grant,” Patrick Leeport, assistant professor of library services, said. “Opportunities like this offer the library and university a way to ground themselves in the community and place they are a part of.”

Red Lake Nation College and the Bemidji Public Library will also partner with BSU to bring the book into surrounding communities.

“This sort of project will be a wonderful asset to the greater Bemidji region. We’re excited about the opportunity for the Red Lake Nation, our college, and our library to collaborate and to celebrate the work of renowned Ojibwe author, Louise Erdrich,” Dan King, hereditary chief of the Red Lake Nation and president of Red Lake Nation College, said.

Rita Albrecht, mayor of the city of Bemidji, also offered her support for the project.

“The City of Bemidji is excited to welcome this initiative as this not only promotes literacy and enlightenment, but also creates awareness of real world issues that affect us all,” she said.

The NEA Big Read showcases a diverse 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 National Endowment for the Arts Big Read selection.

“It is inspiring to see both large and small communities across the nation come together around a book,” Mary Anne Carter, National Endowment for the Arts acting chairman, said. “We always look forward to the unique ways cities, towns, and organizations, like Bemidji State University, explore these stories and encourage community participation in a wide variety of events.”

Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $20 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past 12 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. For more information about the NEA Big Read, visit arts.gov/neabigread

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