NEA Big Read 2019: Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo

Our Big Read adventure has come and gone in the month of April 2019. Thank you, Joy Harjo, Joshua Feist, Arts Midwest, NEA, and all the folks of Locust Grove who made it such a great success! Here are photos from some of the events by Byron Totty.

Big Read Photo Slideshow

The Locust Grove Arts Alliance



 Locust Grove, Oklahoma, to Read and Celebrate How We Became Human

From April 1-30, 2019

 June 5, 2018—LOCUST GROVE—The Locust Grove Arts Alliance (LGAA) is a recipient of a grant of $14,475 to host the NEA Big Read in Locust Grove. A national initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.

The LGAA is one of 79 nonprofit organizations (and the only one in Oklahoma) to receive an NEA Big Read grant to host a community reading program between September 2018 and June 2019. The NEA Big Read in Locust Grove will focus on “How We Became Human” by Joy Harjo. Activities will take place during the month of April 2019, and will conclude with a visit from Harjo on April 26 and 27, 2019.41MmdQgjCKL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

“This is an amazing opportunity for a small community, and we look forward to engaging as many people as possible from all walks of life and all ages in coming together to enjoy this experience,” said Jennifer Henson, President of the LGAA.

“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.

LGAA Treasurer Betty Perkins, President Jennifer Henson and Vice-President Marea Breedlove (Not Pictured: Secretary Shelley Horton)

The LGAA will be working in partnership with the LG Public Schools, the LG Public Library and the LG Chamber of Commerce to expand the project’s reach in April 2019.

Activities will include book discussions at schools and in the community, art and literature activities inspired by the book, and much more.

The grant writer Shaun Perkins, director of the Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry, in Locust Grove, will oversee much of the activities for the program, which is taking place during National Poetry Month.

“Joy Harjo is a phenomenal poet, and she is from this area, so it will be great to study and enjoy her work, get to meet her, and see what kind of impact her poetry can make in our community,” said Perkins.

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

Joy Harjo and Shaun Perkins

Details for all of the events will be posted at the LGAA website: Everyone in the community of Locust Grove is invited to participate.

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 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

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


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