2021-2022 NEA Big Read: Los Angeles

A catalyst for community participation, civic engagement, and a celebration of Los Angeles through art and literature.

Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) is one of 61 organizations nationwide selected to receive a 2021-2022 NEA Big Read grant. DCA was granted the largest award – $20,000, to support reading groups and artmaking projects throughout the City with activities for students, families, as well as panel discussions and workshops for adult education. An 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.

For this iteration of the NEA Big Read: Los Angeles, DCA and participating teachers and students selected The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. The work is a personal story with universal themes around family connection, the importance of identity, and the very meaning of home. The story is told with poignant illustrations, exemplifying the symbiotic relationship between language and the visual-arts. The Best We Could Do expands one family’s personal story into a global, historic context. While this illustrated work is a memoir, it is a portrait of the human experience and has universal appeal – desiring a better future for our families while longing for a simpler past.

DCA’s planned program activities seek to advance literacy and are based on a celebration of storytelling and a creative exploration of personal history, and will include high-school reading and discussion groups for young people with select LAUSD schools throughout the City. The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) will host reading and discussion groups for adult-learners. After-school programming will teach visual arts to students through DCA’s Neighborhood Arts and Cultural Centers. Other planned activities include virtual exhibitions of student’s work; creative writing workshops; film screenings; and panel discussions around the work itself, as well as literary advances within the graphic novel format; and other innovative arts programming to benefit and enrich residents’ quality of life. Public events will run through June, 2022. All events are free and open to the public, and will include diverse activities to engage all age groups and demographics.

The 2021-2022 NEA Big Read: Los Angeles partner organizations include: Sony Pictures Media Arts Program (SPMAP), a DCA program in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment and the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts); the Los Angeles Public Library; and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Additional partners include cultural organizations and individuals such as: artwoxLA; Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory; the Culinary Historians of Southern California; Grand Park (Music Center for Los Angeles County); Libros Schmibros Lending Library; United Voices of Literacy; TeAda Productions, a theater of color organization with a mission to tell stories of immigrants and refugees; and Lalo Alcaraz, film advisor, author, and creator of the syndicated comic, La Cucaracha to amplify the program’s cultural relevance and authenticity and host special events.

For more information about DCA’s Big Read Program in Los Angeles, please email elizabeth.morin@lacity.org.



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