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


Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts one of only two organizations in New Jersey to be named

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 To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee through lively discussions and innovative activities in fall 2015.

Thanks to a $15,000 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 sixth year, the center is one of only two 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 37 selections from U.S. and world literature.

Rutgers–Camden aims to connect approximately 2,000 New Jerseyans to the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and to each other. It has already begun coordinating efforts with Camden City schools by agreeing to provide hundreds of books to Camden students.

“This will be our sixth Big Read program, and they just keep getting bigger and better. Our Camden audiences really look forward to these annual events,” says Noreen Scott Garrity, the associate director and curator of education for the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts. “We host a variety of events geared towards different age groups. They are highly anticipated.”

Beginning the two-month celebration in mid-September, the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts will host a number of events organized around the classic book, including a festive kickoff event, where copies of the book will be distributed; a mock trial with high-school students; an artist residency in the Camden schools; and the distribution of a companion book for young readers.

There will also be several town-hall discussions based on themes identified through public participation in a multi-site visual art and writing installation, “Out on a Limb”; a lecture series; a family-friendly storytelling series in the Camden County Library’s Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez Downtown Branch, located on the Rutgers–Camden campus; and a Storytelling on Tour program in the Camden community. All programs are free of charge and open to all Camden residents.

Presented by the NEA, in partnership with Arts Midwest, The Big Read offers grants ranging from $6,130 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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