Longwood University has received a $15,000 grant to host the NEA Big Read in Farmville and Prince Edward County.

Beginning next spring, community members from across Southside, and on Longwood and Hampden-Sydney’s campuses will read author Ron Rash’s celebrated work, “Burning Bright,” a series of unforgettable stories set in Appalachia, and come together for book discussions, speaker series, and keynote addresses.

There’s something in there for everyone—and the grant allows us to lead those discussions on our common cultural interests.

Brent Roberts, dean of Longwood’s Greenwood Library Tweet This

A national initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read seeks to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Longwood, the lead organization in the community grant—other partners include Prince Edward County Public Schools, the Central Virginia Regional Library system, and Hampden-Sydney College—is one of 79 nonprofit organizations to receive an NEA Big Read grant to host a community reading program in the next year.

“We are so excited to engage with the larger community on this project,” said Brent Roberts, dean of Longwood’s Greenwood Library. “The stories in Burning Bright are gripping, but they are also a springboard into discussions of Appalachian culture, history, food and music. There’s something in there for everyone—and the grant allows us to lead those discussions on our common cultural interests.”

 “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.”

The NEA Big Read showcases a diverse range of contemporary 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 NEA Big Read selection.

NEA Big Read: Heart of Virginia programming will culminate in April 2019, and will feature book discussions, film screenings, special musical events, an author keynotes at Longwood, and events and workshops at Hampden-Sydney and throughout the community, before the grand finale at the Heart of Virginia Festival on May 4, 2019. A full schedule of events will be released later in the year.

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 eleven 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 level, and 39,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible. For more information about the NEA Big Read, please visit arts.gov/neabigread.


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 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. Visit arts.gov to learn more about NEA.

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 non-profit regional arts organizations in the United States, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 25 years. For more information, please visit artsmidwest.org.

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