Thanks to a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith will host an NEA Big Read in Fort Smith this year, a community reading program with activities centered around a select book that includes a visit from the author.
UAFS received the NEA’s Big Read grant for “Station Eleven,” the bestselling novel by Emily St. John Mandel which was nominated for the National Book Award in 2014. The grant will allow UAFS to offer numerous activities in February and March of 2019, culminating in a visit from Mandel. The event dates have yet to be determined. UAFS was the only university in Arkansas to receive the grant.
Dr. Christian Gerard, assistant professor of English, said the reception of the grant signals that “our Lions’ roar has reached Washington.”
“The selection process for this particular governmental grant is incredibly rigorous. This honor doesn’t just reflect the work happening on the UAFS campus, but demonstrates the NEA’s desire to invest in Fort Smith,” Gerard said. “This award demonstrates the NEA’s commitment to further strengthen the bond between UAFS and the region through events and enrichment activities focused on literacy and the literary arts. We couldn’t be more proud of our students, our faculty, and our community.”
Set 20 years after a flu pandemic destroys most of civilization, “Station Eleven” tells the story of a woman who moves between the settlements of a devastated world with a small troupe of actors and musicians until they encounter a violent prophet who threatens the existence of the group.
Published in 2014, the novel received mass acclaim, winning the Arthur C. Clarke award and receiving a nomination for the PEN/Faulkner Award. The Independent London said it was “possibly the most captivating and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic novel you will ever read.”
Hailing from Canada, Mandel is a staff writer for The Millions, an online literary magazine, and is the author of four books, including “The Lola Quartet” and “The Singer’s Gun.” She resides in Brooklyn.
UAFS was one of 79 nonprofit organizations to receive the grant. The NEA Big Read showcases a diverse range of contemporary titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, aiming to inspire conversation and discovery.
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.
For more information on the UAFS Big Read program, contact Dr. Ann-Gee Lee, co-chair of UAFS Big Read, at Ann-Gee.Lee@uafs.edu or Dr. Cammie Sublette, UAFS English, Rhetoric and Writing Department Head, at Cammie.Sublette@uafs.edu.