CWU News

CWU Libraries Awarded NEA Big Read Grant to Fund Community Outreach

Graphic with text that reads "National Endowment For the Arts Big Read Managed by Arts Midwest"

Stories and collective reading experiences bring communities together in a unique way, as recognized by a new grant Central Washington University Libraries received from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read. The $16,400 grant, managed by Arts Midwest, is designed to incentivize meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and community connections centered around one of this year’s featured books.

CWU Libraries received the Big Read grant this summer thanks to a grant proposal authored by former CWU Arts & Humanities Librarian Wendy Spacek. The funded events, planned for spring 2023, will focus on “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude,” a poetry collection by Ross Gay.

“Gay’s catalog demonstrates how, through love, we can dismantle our binary notions of us/them, liberal/conservative, rural/urban, city/nature and other dichotomies that insist on separateness and instead embrace our collectivity, connectedness, dependence, and shared destiny with and for each other and our environment; discovering that at our core we have much more in common than we are led to believe,” Spaček wrote in her proposal.

Gay’s work reflects on his life as a community orchardist in Indiana, paying tribute to all the stories of dirt, berries, and familial gatherings that shaped his experiences. In the spirit of this body of work, the CWU Libararies events will include an author talk, a gardening workshop, neighborhood walks, and a public art display and brass band gratitude celebration. Each is designed to encourage participants to engage deeply with “Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude,” and perhaps discover a love for poetry in the process. Participants will receive a copy of the featured book to help guide their experience.

CWU Libraries is one of 62 organizations nationwide to receive a 2022-2023 NEA Big Read grant, and will work with Ellensburg Public Library, Gallery One, Kittitas Environmental Education Network (KEEN), the Kittitas Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and the CWU English Department, CWU Wildcat Neighborhood Farm, and Lion Rock Visiting Writers Series to fulfill the promise of the grant for the university and the Ellensburg community.

This is the third Big Read grant CWU has been awarded. More details about events and registration will be available in the coming months.

Media Contact: Rune Torgersen, Department of Public Affairs,,