CWU News

CWU Awarded 2018 NEA Big Read Grant

Central Washington University is one of only two organizations in Washington to receive a To Live - book coverBig Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The $6,490 grant will support a broad range of NEA Big Read activities in Ellensburg in February and March of 2019.

In partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read strives to bring together communities through the sharing of a common book. Ellensburg’s Big Read will focus on Yu Hua’s novel To Live (English translation by Michael Berry).

To Live offers us an opportunity to better educate ourselves about China’s history and culture,” said Gerard Hogan, CWU professor of library services and Big Read project director. “The novel’s themes of loss, suffering, and survival are universal, leaving readers with difficult and interesting questions about individual, national, and cultural values.”

Hua’s novel articulates the realities of life in China during a time when it was very isolated from the world. Readers empathize with the novel’s characters, are moved by the struggles they endure, and come to a better understanding of life at that place and time.

Ellensburg and CWU have a strong and long connection to China. In the early 1980s, soon after the end of China’s Cultural Revolution, representatives of Anhui University, in Hefei, China, met with representatives from CWU to sign an agreement to initiate the exchange of scholars and students. This relationship with China has remained strong.

“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. Each year’s reading program is designed around a single NEA Big Read selection.

CWU is one of 79 nonprofit organizations to receive an NEA Big Read grant to host a community reading program in 2018-2019.

Big Read LogoEstablished 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