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Georgia College awarded National Endowment for the Arts Big Read grant

Georgia College received a $15,000 grant to host a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read in Milledgeville. The goal is to promote the joy of reading and bring the community together around a common book.

The university is one of 79 nonprofit organizations across the country awarded the grant to host a community reading program between September 2018 and June 2019. Co-sponsored by Georgia College’s Ina Dillard Russell Library and the Department of English, the NEA Big Read in Milledgeville will focus on the book “Silver Sparrow” by Tayari Jones.

“The purpose of the program is to bring people in the community together around a common text,” said Dr. Beauty Bragg, interim chair and professor of English. “As a literature professor, I think reading fiction gives people a way to connect to others from different backgrounds or who have different experiences. That emotional connection can help us understand the human experience across boundaries.”

Activities are planned for this fall that will explore different aspects and themes from the book. The author will visit and host a book signing and discussion.

“We plan to host a fashion show, guest speakers to discuss the topics of the book, a poetry slam, film series and traditional book club discussions,” said Dr. Shaundra Walker, interim director of the Ina Dillard Russell Library. “We hope the diverse programing attracts different people from the community from retirees to young people to college students.”

The grant allows the university to purchase 1,000 copies to distribute in the community. The distribution will be coordinated through partnerships with Twin Lakes Library, local schools and Georgia College.

A Georgia native, Tayari Jones is the author of the novel “Silver Sparrow” as well as “Leaving Atlanta,” “The Untelling,” and “An American Marriage” (Algonquin Books, February 2018). A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she received the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. “Silver Sparrow” was named a No. 1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa and Arizona State University. She is an associate professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University in New Jersey. “An American Marriage” is a 2018 Oprah’s Book Club Selection.

The NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. NEA’s national initiative is in partnership with Arts Midwest. Georgia College has participated in two previous Big Read programs, one for Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 45” and another for “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest Gaines.

 “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.”

Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,400 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $19 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past 11 years, grantees have leveraged more than $44 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 4.9 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event; approximately 82,000 volunteers have participated at the local leve; and 39,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible.

For more information about the NEA Big Read, visit

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Brittiny Johnson
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