National Endowment for the Arts Announces Grants to
Washington, DC -- In an effort to deepen and broaden cultural understanding, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and Arts Midwest, today announced a second international component of the NEA's national reading program The Big Read. Four U.S. organizations will receive grants ranging from $10,000-$20,000 to present Big Read projects focusing on The Thief and the Dogs by Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz. The selected organizations are Columbia University in the City of New York (New York, NY), Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College (Miami, FL), Huntsville-Madison County Public Library (Huntsville, AL), and the South Dakota Humanities Council/South Dakota Center for the Book (Brookings, SD).
"Cultural exchange needs to play a more important role in international relations," said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, "And there is no better way to understand another nation than to read one of its great books. The NEA is delighted to join with the State Department in The Big Read Egypt/U.S. and to introduce one of Egypt's and the world's greatest writers to American readers."
Three Egyptian organizations are also taking part in The Big Read Egypt/U.S. They are the American University in Cairo, The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, and the Egyptian Association for Educational Resources. Participants in Egypt will read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The overseas component of The Big Read Egypt/U.S. was announced during the Cairo International Book Fair in February 2008 by NEA Chairman Dana Gioia and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alina L. Romanowski.
"Literature can set the mind free and allow the soul to journey to lands and times where the body can not. Books are our imagination's wings, taking us into the homes and worlds of others," said Romanowki. "Through literature and The Big Read Egypt/U.S. our nations will deepen our understanding and respect of one another, one community at a time, one page at a time."
The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture by encouraging communities to come together to read the same book. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read Egypt/U.S. is part of the State Department's Global Cultural Initiative, a multi-faceted international cultural diplomacy effort characterized by partnerships with U.S. government and private sector cultural agencies and institutions.
U.S. programming for The Big Read Egypt/U.S. will take place between September 2008 and June 2009. Each U.S. Big Read program will last approximately one month and will include community events aimed at encouraging reading by readers and lapsed or reluctant readers alike. Events may include book discussions, lectures, public readings, film screenings, performing arts presentations, and exhibits.
Cultural exchange activities with participating Egyptian organizations may include virtual exchanges, participation by Egyptian literary and cultural figures in U.S. programming, and other cross-cultural activities that will enhance the readers' understanding of The Thief and the Dogs and Egyptian culture. As part of the grant activities representatives from the four U.S. grantee organizations traveled to Egypt in April 2008 to meet with partner organizations and to learn more about Naguib Mahfouz and Egyptian culture.
The Big Read was launched by the NEA as a pilot program with ten communities in 2006; by 2009 more than 400 Big Read projects will have taken place nationwide. The first international component of The Big Read focused on The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in the U.S. and on To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee in Russia.
The next round of grants for The Big Read will be announced on June 16, 2008. These programs also will take place between September 2008 and June 2009 and will focus on one of 22 selections from The Big Read library. For more information on The Big Read, including program information, a complete list of The Big Read novels, and application guidelines, please visit www.neabigread.org.
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