SVCC to Receive NEA Big Read Grant

Southside Virginia Community College ONE OF 79 ORGANIZATIONS NATIONWIDE



Southside Virginia Community College service areas to Read and Celebrate “A Lesson before Dying” by Ernest Gaines


Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) is a recipient of a grant to host the NEA Big Read. 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. SVCC is one of 79 nonprofit organizations to receive an NEA Big Read grant to host a community-reading program between September 2018 and June 2019. The NEA Big Read will feature book discussions, movie night, special musical and other events throughout the community. Schedules are forth coming.

The NEA Big Read in Southside Virginia Community College service areas will focus on author Ernest Gaines’ award winning book, “A Lesson before Dying.” A Lesson before Dying, tells the story of a falsely accused young black man on death row and a Louisiana-born, college educated teacher who visits him in prison and helps him regain his dignity. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1993. “Gaines has a gift for evoking the tenor of life in a bygone era and making it seem as vivid and immediate as something that happened only yesterday” (Christian Science Monitor). The Chicago Tribune writes, "[t]his majestic, moving novel is an instant classic, a book that will be read, discussed and taught beyond the rest of our lives."

"I am excited about assisting the community in reading about a life lesson that can be taught on any level of human emotions".

-Rosa Townsend, SVCC College Librarian

“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.

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

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 pro mote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.govto 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


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