NEA Selects Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts for The Big Read

By Tom McLaughlin

Camden residents are once again invited to join an avid book club potentially numbering in the thousands, as the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts celebrates Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine through lively discussions and innovative activities in fall 2017.

Thanks to a $10,500 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant, the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts has been named a grantee of The Big Read. Participating for the eighth year, the center is one of only three organizations from New Jersey to be selected for the upcoming year, and one of only 75 organizations to earn the nod nationwide.

Launched in 2006, NEA’s The Big Read program promotes a lifelong love of reading by uniting communities across the nation in discussion and celebration of one of 21 selections from U.S. and world literature.

Rutgers–Camden aims to connect approximately 3,000 New Jerseyeans to the book, Citizen: An American Lyric, and to each other. It has already begun coordinating efforts with Camden City schools by agreeing to provide hundreds of books to Camden students.

“Our audiences eagerly await the books and the programs each year, and have been asking for a more contemporary title. The Big Read recently added 13 new books to the roster, so we wanted to bring something new to our audience that will provide opportunities for rich discussion,” says Noreen Scott Garrity, associate director for education for the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts.

Beginning the two-month celebration in early October, the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts will host a number of events organized around the book, including a festive kick-off event, where copies of the book will be distributed; two artist residencies in the Camden schools; and the distribution of companion books for young readers.

Other events include a family-friendly storytelling performance in the Camden County Library’s Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez Downtown Branch, located on the Rutgers–Camden campus, a lecture series, and interactive installations. All public programs are free of charge and open to all Camden residents.

In partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, and in cooperation with Arts Midwest, The Big Read offers grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 to promote and carry out community-based programs.

Participating communities also receive high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title.

The Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts seeks to provide performances, exhibitions, education programs, and community projects, that inspire a full appreciation and enjoyment of the arts, create meaningful opportunities to participate in the arts, advance the central role of the arts in pre K-12 education, and increase awareness of the arts as essential to cultural, economic, and community vitality.

For additional information about The Big Read at Rutgers–Camden, contact Noreen Scott Garrity at (856) 225-6306.

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