The Department of Cultural Affairs 2020-2021
NEA Big Read Program in Los Angeles

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

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to bring communities together, inspire conversation, and broaden our understanding of our world and ourselves. The NEA presents the Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest. The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) marks its 13th year as a recipient of a grant to host the NEA Big Read with the 2020-2021 selection of Louise Erdrich’s The Round House, a story told through a 13-year old boy’s investigation and desire for revenge and justice in the brutal attack of his mother. Erdrich’s book will be read by community book groups for adults and high school students. The book, Indian No More, by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell, will be read by students in middle school. Indian No More is a companion book about a ten-year-old girl from the Umpqua Tribe who leaves her home as a result of the federal Indian Relocation Program and moves to Los Angeles.

DCA’s literacy program is guided by the goals of reaching new audiences and continuing to deepen the reader’s experience through thematic activities. Past themes include discrimination; prejudice; gentrification; immigration; gender and personal identity, police and community interaction; racism; censorship; cultural movements; coming of age; war; and familial stories of love and longing relatable to all. Literary genres studied include poetry, short stories, and fiction.

The entire 2020-2021 program will be presented virtually, with the book’s themes framing all activity. Online activities and events hosted by partner organizations are free and open to the public. Our partners include the Los Angeles Public Library, the Autry Museum of the American West, the Los Angeles Unified School District, Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory, artworxLA, Grand Park – The Music Center, Tía Chucha’s Cultural Center, CalArts Community Arts Partnership, Libros Schmibros Lending Library, Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Meztli Projects, Peace Over Violence, United Voices of Literacy, and DCA’s Community Arts Centers, Los Angeles Department on Aging, among others.

This past November we announced this year’s NEA Big Read Program in LA in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles Native American Heritage Month and with special events offered by the Los Angeles Public Library and the Autry Museum of the American West.

Reading groups in schools, community-based programs, and public libraries take place from November 2020 through June 2021. Public events inspired by the book will take place April through June 2021. Continue to check for the most updated listing of events.

For more information about DCA’s Big Read Program in Los Angeles, please email


In celebration of the NEA Big Read Program 2020-2021 and in honor of Native American Heritage Month, the Autry Museum of the American West welcomed the Big Read at its 13th annual – and first virtual – American Indian Arts Marketplace, on November 14-15, 2020. This two-day event featured salon conversations, films screenings, and a marketplace of artwork, jewelry, and fashion. The Autry’s resident theater company, Native Voices, presented a festival of plays by Native playwrights. Please visit the Autry Museum’s webpage to learn more about the museum’s events, including its spring activities in celebration of the NEA Big Read Program in LA, at the


Community and cultural partners will host a variety of virtual interactive and engaging events, including film screenings, panel discussions, culinary presentations, exhibitions, dramatic readings, art workshops, and more, from April through June, 2021.

Please check back in April for updates and a complete listing of events.

Community and cultural partners include:

Autry Museum of the American West
Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory
CalArts Community Arts Partnership
City of Los Angeles Department on Aging
City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs

Barnsdall Park
Lincoln Heights Youth Arts Center
Watts Towers Art Center
William Grant Still Art Center

Culinary Historians of Southern California
Grand Park ½ The Music Center
Libros Schmibros Lending Library
Los Angeles Public Library
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
Los Angeles Unified School District
Meztli Projects
Peace Over Violence
Tía Chucha’s Cultural Center
United Voices of Literacy


Garden of Justice: After-school Residency
February 22 – May 7, 2021
Online, hosted by artworxLA ArtsLab

artworxLA will host an arts residency program for 10-15 students from our network of 28 alternative high schools in diverse neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles (including several LAUSD Central High Schools, Frida Kahlo HS, and Education Corps sites). Inspired by a close reading of excerpts from The Round House by Louise Erdrich, students will respond to the themes of voice, coming of age, personal narrative, civic duty, as well as community responsibility and healing through the lens of visual art or fashion design. The goal of the program is to promote community healing and civic engagement through the creation of visual art or fashion design to be exhibited in a culminating exhibition in May, 2021.

Students will work with a professional teaching artist in a series of 11 workshops that culminate in a visual arts/fashion design project. The program will be complemented by an exploration of Lauren Halsey’s solo exhibition at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The forthcoming exhibition will display works by Los Angeles based artist Lauren Halsey whose work considers art, architecture and community through multi media artworks and site-specific projects. Her work addresses issues relating to people of color, queer populations, and the working class. The combination of literature and visual art will be a catalyst for the formal aspects of the students’ work.

artworxLA combats the high school dropout rate by engaging alternative education students in a long-term, sequential arts program offering a pursuable life path that inspires them to stay in school, evolve as unique individuals, and flourish as creative adults. After school art residencies create a network of peers with the goal of growing skills in specific media, leadership, and life skills.

For more information about Garden of Justice Youth Art Residency, please visit

For more info on artworxLA’s after-school residency programs, contact Isabel Beavers,
Youth Development Specialist, at

Autry Museum of the American West

Native Voices: The New Adventures of Super Indian
Wednesday, April 14, 2021; 4:00 pm
Wednesday, April 21, 2021; 4:00 pm
Wednesday, April 28, 2021; 4:00 pm

The Autry’s resident theater program, Native Voices, will present The New Adventures of Super Indian, created by Arigon Starr, based on her popular graphic novels, unfolds over three audio episodes that tell the comic exploits of Super Indian and the residents of the fictional Learning Oak Tribe Reservation.

Registration is free.

The Autry brings together the stories of all people of the American West, connecting the past with the present to inspire our shared future.

Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory (BHAC)

BHAC x KQBH Presents … Louise Erdrich Outloud
Wednesday, May 12, 2021; 3:00 pm
KQBH, 101.5 fm or stream at

Join Por Vida/ For Life Media and KQBH youth hosts for a live recording of selected poems and stories from Louise Erdrich, including: Indian Boarding School, The Runaways, I Was Sleeping Where the Black Oaks Move, Original Fire, The Ritual, The Potchikoo Stories, The Butcher’s Wife, The Seven Sleepers and other audience favorites, via suggested submissions.

Readers will range in age from 12 – 24. Participants can tune in live on 101.5FM or stream at  This event is free and open to all. If you would like to be considered to read during this event, please send us an email at with the subject line “Poems by Louise Erdrich”

BHAC supports and advocates for a new framework for viewing diversity in creative arts, media, and technology.  They support inclusivity that is reflective of Los Angeles in ethnicity, age, gender, socially and economically and one that removes the barriers for equal opportunities allowing arts industries to grow and thrive. BHAC understands the structure of, and relationship between, the recording, music publishing, marketing, and live performance industries.

For more information please visit

Culinary Historians of Southern California

The Fall and Rise of Native American Foods
Thursday, April 8, 2021; 7:00 pm

All aspects of native culture were deliberately suppressed beginning in the 19th century, with food given special attention. Separating native people from their traditional diet made them more dependent, which was a deliberate policy. That traditional knowledge was passed on in secret, but the secret is now out. A new generation of Native American scholars, chefs, and educators has brought that diet back into the light, and it appears in restaurants, books, and as a recovered element in the lives of tribal members. In this program a culinary historian moderates a panel of some of the people who are leading the reevaluation of native foods.

This program is developed and moderated by Richard Foss, a culinary historian and author based in Los Angeles who is curating the “Cooking Up a New West” exhibition at the Autry Museum of the American West.

Grand Park and the Music Center

Grand Park’s Our LA Voices 2021
Thursday, April 15, 2021; 6:00 pm
Thursday, April 22, 2021: 6:00 pm
Thursday, April 29, 2021: 6:00 pm
Free and Open to the Public

Grand Park’s Our L.A. Voices – L.A. Arts Festival is an arts gathering that focuses exclusively on the diverse and powerful artistic talent in Los Angeles County. This year’s event explores wellness and mental health, via online presentation.

Envisioned as an annual “best of L.A. arts festival,” this free performing and visual arts showcase will bring dance, music and theatre performances as well as visual artwork by L.A. artists to Grand Park every spring. Grand Park’s Our L.A. Voices serves as a home for L.A. artists, underlining Grand Park’s commitment to L.A.’s creative communities.

For more information about Grand Park’s OUR LA VOICES, visit

United Voices of Literacy

Readers are Leaders
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Thursday, April 15, 2021

United Voices of Literacy (UVOL) welcomes youth, ages 8-12, to its reading and writing

workshops, based on the book, A Different Pond, a story about a family who, through their hardship and poverty, find hope, light and joy in their unity and support of one another.

A storyteller will guide youth through a personal and creative process to show them how to tell a story of family and themselves.  Each participant will be given a copy of the featured book and a journal to document their family history and to envision their personal journey ahead.

United Voices of Literacy (UVOL) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the improvement of reading and reading comprehension for elementary and middle school youth using the instruction and delivery of oral dramatic reading based on current theatrical films and television programs, literature, historical and current biographies of notable persons.


Activities at DCA’s Community Arts and Cultural Centers include after-school art classes, writing activities, exhibitions, and film screenings, in early 2021. For more information, visit

The DCA Community Arts and Cultural Centers participating in the NEA Big Read Program in Los Angeles include:

Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park
Artmaking in partnership with Metzli Projects, an Indigenous based arts & culture collaborative centering Indigeneity into the creative practice of Los Angeles by using arts-based strategies to support, advocate for, and organize to highlight Native/Indigenous Artists and systems-impacted youth.
Friday, April 30, 2021; 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Friday, May 14, 2021; 1:00 – 4:00 pm

Lincoln Heights Youth Arts Center
Poetry In the Heights and Reading Group
Saturdays, April 17 – May 22, 2021; 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Watts Towers Arts Center
Program: We invite you to enjoy the fifth episode of the Watts Towers Arts Center’s Storytelling Time series, featuring artist Jessica Gudiel, via this link.

William Grant Still Arts Center
Facilitated Book Group
Check back in early April


The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) provides free and easy access to information, ideas, books and technology that enrich, educate and empower every individual in our city’s diverse communities.

Please check back in April, 2021, for a complete listing of upcoming events hosted by the Los Angeles Public Library, or visit the LAPL calendar of events, at

Westchester – Loyola Branch
Wednesday, May 12, 2021 @ 11:00 am

Junipero Serra Branch Library
Thursday, March 18, 2021 @ 4:00 pm

Arroyo Branch Library
Saturday, February 27, 2021@ 3:00 pm

Westchester Branch Library
Friday, February 26, 2021@ 3:30 pm

ART WORKSHOP: Ojibwe Art – Paint or Create a Collage
Felipe de Neve
January 28, 2021 @ 6:00 pmsd CLUB DISCUSSION

North Hollywood Branch Location
January 22, 2021 @ 10:00 am

North Hollywood Branch Library
Monday, November 16, 2020 @ 2:00 pm

Sun Valley Branch Library
Monday, November 16, 2020 @ 4:45 pm

JC Fremont Branch Library
Tuesday, November 10, 2020 @6:00 pm

CalArts Community Arts Partnership



October 2020 to June 2021 (Afterschool program)
Saturday, June 2021 (Culminating event – film screening)

Participating Sites:
Banning’s Landing Community Cultural Center
Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock
Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center at Watts Towers Arts Center
Pacoima City Hall
William Reagh Los Angeles Photography Center

Students in the Sony Pictures Media Arts Program will read Indian No More, by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell. Indian No More, a companion book to this year’s featured title by Louise Erdrich, The Round House, is a moving middle-grade novel about family, relocation, and being American Indian, as told through the life of a ten-year-old girl from the Umpqua Tribe who leaves her home as a result of the federal Indian Relocation Program and moves to Los Angeles. Taking inspiration from the book, students will create original short films. The program culminates in a public screening of the artwork produced by the students, to be presented virtually.

This 30-week, tuition-free media arts program, held after-school twice a week, is for middle school students aged 10 to 14. Students learn drawing and painting techniques and how to draw from a model, animate, put together an art portfolio, and create artwork on computers.

This program is part of the Sony Pictures Media Arts Program, a partnership between the CalArts Community Arts Partnership, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

For more information, please visit


Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will read The Round House, by Louise Erdrich, as part of remote school sessions that include guided lesson plans, teacher-facilitated discussions, and student projects that will culminate in in virtual community celebrations.

School partners are key to the success of DCA’s Big Read Program in Los Angeles and to fulfilling the mission of the NEA Big Read, our nation’s literacy initiative. Since 2008, the program has grown to reach a growing number of students in middle schools and high schools. Books read as part of the program include: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett; The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan; Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories, edited by Jorge F. Hernandez; The Thief and The Dogs by Naguib Mahfouz; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri; Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea; Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine; The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu; and Advice from the Lights by Stephanie Burt.

Participating schools receive educational materials for teachers and students, including a Teacher’s Guide, a Reader’s Guide, a Big Read banner, bookmarks, and a copy of this year’s book, for every school participant.

The NEA Big Read title is a part of the curriculum with lessons to further enrich students’ experience reading the book and an understanding of the story’s themes. Each school hosts either a related activity or event inspired by the book, such as a community festival, a film screening, an exhibition of artwork, a public reading of creative writing pieces, culinary components, field trips, art making sessions, and more.  The program and all related school activity will take place virtually, due to the pandemic.

The NEA Big Read in Schools Program promotes intra-cultural exchange, celebrates cultural connections, and fosters civic engagement. It also places an emphasis on students as catalysts for creativity and interaction.

DCA’s Big Read Program in Los Angeles 2020-2021 partner schools include:
Franklin High School
Lincoln High School
Marshall High School
Mendez High School
Sylmar Charter High School – Sylmar Biotech
Verdugo Hills High School
Whitman High School

Each school’s culminating event will be announced in April, 2021.


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