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Massillon Museum Is Awarded Its Ninth Grant for The Big Read

News Release:  Massillon Museum Is Awarded Its Ninth Grant for The Big Read

The Massillon Museum is a recipient of a prestigious grant to again host The Big Read in Stark County. A program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), 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 Massillon Museum is one of only 75 nonprofit organizations nationally to receive a grant to host a Big Read project between September 2015 and June 2016. 

The Big Read 2016 in Stark County will focus on In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. Activities and distribution of 1,500 free books will take place In the spring of 2016. 

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez transports readers to the Dominican Republic during the mid-twentieth century when the country struggled under the brutal dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. A work of historical fiction, the novel honors the lives of Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal, who became icons of freedom and women’s rights when they were assassinated in the autumn of 1960 for their role in the underground movement against Trujillo’s regime. Their murders inspired many in the Dominican Republic to denounce the regime publicly and marked the beginning of the end for Trujillo’s reign. In 1999 the United Nations General Assembly designated the date of the Mirabal sisters’ deaths, November 25, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

“We were truly thrilled to have hosted Old School author Tobias Wolff last month as our first living author and we hope to invite our first female author—Julia Alvarez—to speak during The Big Read in 2016,” Haden said. “Julia Alvarez was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to America as a child. The Museum staff is excited to explore an international theme through programming.”

“The book will lend new interpretive potential to well-known master works of great American photographers who will be featured in the Massillon Museum’s summer 2016 exhibition,” said Museum Education and Outreach Coordinator Heather Haden, who submitted the grant application to the NEA.

The Massillon Museum’s celebration of this book will emphasize themes of rising above adversity. “The butterfly is a universal symbol of liberation across all ages and cultures,” Haden said. The Museum hopes to present a Rhythms concert of merengue dance, native to the Dominican Republic; engage the Hispanic community in events surrounding The Big Read; and work with Gary Harwood, author of Growing Season, to include participants in his photo documentary of the Hartville migrant community.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The Big Read is a powerful example of how the arts can bring communities together and help us to connect with one another. These 75 organizations, including the Massillon Museum, are creating valuable opportunities for their communities to share wonderful stories and characters and to have meaningful conversations.” 

The Massillon Museum has been selected to participate annually in The Big Read since 2008. The Museum applied for its first Big Read grant for the program’s second grant cycle. Since that time, the Museum has distributed more than 10,000 free copies of literary classics and books destined to become classics to schools, organizations, and individuals in Stark County, offering dozens of free programs to enhance the reading experience.  Previous books have included: Call of the Wild, The Age of Innocence, The Shawl, Tom Sawyer, The Poems and Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, and Old School. Primary local partners have been:  Massillon Public Library; Stark Parks; Massillon/North Canton Elks #2029; Rotary Club of Massillon; the Massillon Area Chamber of Commerce; Washington High School Drama Department; the Stark County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau; and many community volunteers. 

About The Big Read

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 For more information about The Big Read please visit

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established 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. For more information, visit

About Arts Midwest

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

About the Massillon Museum

The Massillon Museum, where art and history come together, is located at 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon. It is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. A visit to the Massillon Museum is always free. For more information, call 330-833-4061 or visit  

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