UW Colleges one of 75 organizations nationwide to receive a NEA Big Read grant

Wisconsin Communities to Read and Celebrate “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich

The University of Wisconsin Colleges has been awarded a $15,000 grant to host NEA Big Read initiatives in a number of Wisconsin communities in 2018.

A program of the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with Minneapolis-based Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read is meant to broaden understanding of the world and our communities through the sharing of a good book.

Next March and April, as part of this effort, people from Rice Lake, Marshfield, Baraboo, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Hayward and the Lac Courte Orielles Ojibwe tribe will be reading the same book, Louise Erdrich’s 2012 “The Round House.”

The UW Colleges is one of 75 nonprofit organizations in the country to receive an NEA Big Read grant to host a community reading program between September 2017 and June 2018.

“We are delighted to see our proposal for an NEA Big Read on ‘The Round House’ by such a fine writer as Louise Erdrich go forward,” said Lee Friederich, Wisconsin Reads The Round House project director and senior lecturer and international programs coordinator at UW-Barron County.

Written in the voice of a 13-year-old boy named Joe, whose mother has been brutally raped, “The Round House” explores the impact of the rape on family members and the tribal community, as well as the larger issue of sexual assault on Native American women.

With discussions, films, lectures, art exhibits, and story-telling workshops on university campuses, public libraries and other venues around the state, the project will also provide programming for youth, who will be introduced to Erdrich’s children’s novel, “The Birchbark House,” and her first book of poetry, “Jacklight.”

Students enrolled in the UW Colleges’ Bachelors of Applied Arts and Sciences (BAAS) degree program at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County, UW-Barron County, UW-Marshfield/Wood County and UW-Waukesha, along with students at Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College (LCO-OCC), Hayward, Wis., are working to plan and promote next year’s NEA Big Read activities in their home communities.

“I am proud that the NEA Big Read is not only a collaboration with LCO-OCC, but it also has been a collaborative project for our BAAS students on various campuses,” said Friederich. “Last summer, we started to develop our ideas for participating in the NEA Big Read during their Writing for Non-Profits course. Last fall, as part of their internship experience, our BAAS students followed through on writing the proposal.”

Wisconsin writers, such as Chippewa 2016 Wisconsin Poet Laureate and UW-Milwaukee Professor Kim Blaeser, and w:william bearhart, a former UW-Barron County student and recent master of fine arts graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and descendant of the St. Croix Chippewa tribe, will help kick off Big Read events in their home communities and offer creative writing and reading opportunities to area students.

More than 70 events will be held in the state as part of the Big Read initiative, including these locations: The Indian Community School of Milwaukee, Marshfield Clinic’s New Visions Gallery, the Boys and Girls Club of La Courte Oreilles and Rice Lake, and the Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee.