September 11, 2015

The University of Central Florida is a recipient of a grant of $15,000.00 to host The Big Read in Orlando. The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment. 

In celebration of the 125th anniversary of Zora Neale Hurston’s birth, the University of Central Florida, in conjunction with Seminole County Public Libraries and the Public History Center, will host a series of events during January and February 2016 centered around Hurston’s seminal text Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Managed by Arts Midwest, this initiative offers grants to support innovative community reading programs designed around a single book. The University of Central Florida is one of 4 nonprofit organizations in Florida to receive a grant to host a Big Read project between September 2015 and June 2016.

“We are delighted to have received such a prestigious grant,” said project director Keri Watson, Assistant Professor of Art History at UCF. “This is a great opportunity for UCF to engage the community in a discussion of art, literature, and life. This grant enables us to offer programs at the Center for Emerging Media in downtown Orlando, at the New Journey Youth Center in Apopka, at Aspire Healthcare in Orlando, at Midway Safe Harbor Community Center in Sanford, and at the UCF Art Gallery. We are especially excited to have the opportunity to commission work by two contemporary artists: Eric Gottesman and Therman Statom.”

The Big Read provides communities nationwide with the opportunity to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 37 selections from U.S. and world literature. The 75 selected organizations will receive Big Read grants to promote and carry out community-based reading programs. The NEA has also developed high-quality, free-of-charge educational materials to supplement each title, including reader’s guides, teacher’s guides, and audio programming, all of which are available to the public on

UCF is delighted to collaborate on this effort, which will reach into the diverse communities of the greater Orlando area. The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. For more information about The Big Read please visit