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The original item was published from 6/17/2020 12:18:39 PM to 8/1/2020 12:00:02 AM.

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Posted on: June 17, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Middletown Township Public Library Receives Grant to Host National Endowment for the Arts Big Read


CONTACT: Heather Andolsen, 732-671-3700,

June 17, 2020                                                                                                                     



Middletown Township to Read and Celebrate ’In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex’ During the month of April 2021


June 17, 2020—Middletown Township, NJ—Middletown Township Public Library is a recipient of a grant of $5,000 to host the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read in Middletown Township. An Arts Endowment initiative 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. Middletown Township Public Library is one of 84 nonprofit organizations selected to receive an NEA Big Read grant to support a community reading program between September 2020 and June 2021 and the only public library in the country reading In the Heart of the Sea. The NEA Big Read in Middletown will focus on Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea (made into a major motion picture 2015, starring Chris Hemsworth and directed by Ron Howard). Activities will take place throughout the month of April 2021.

“Our library is an epicenter of learning and exploration, and through grants like this can continue to provide programming that inspires our community members to broaden their horizons and connect with others through reading,” said Mayor Tony Perry.

“We have become even more aware this year of the important ways the arts help us connect with others, and how they bring meaning, joy, and comfort to our lives,” said Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “By bringing the NEA Big Read to Middletown, NJ, the Middletown Township Public Library will provide opportunities for deep discussion and ways to help us better understand one another.”

The NEA Big Read offers a range of titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, aiming to inspire conversation and discovery. The main feature of the initiative is a grants program, managed by Arts Midwest, which annually supports dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single National Endowment for the Arts Big Read selection.

“We are honored to continue our partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts on this incredible program,” said Torrie Allen, president & CEO of Arts Midwest. “For more than 14 years this national effort has invested in communities as they gather to discuss the stories and ideas that connect us to one another. We are especially inspired by the projects and organizations that are finding new, virtual ways of creating those connections with their communities and are thrilled to support them at this critical time.”

Middletown Township Public Library is honored to bring this true-life tragedy into focus. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (the inspiration behind Moby Dick) is a New York Times Best-Seller and won the National Book Award in 2000. Although the book takes place in the 1820’s the themes of survival, society and classism, leadership, and man vs. nature are current topics in our society and community,” said Heather Andolsen, Director Middletown Township Public Library. "The non-fiction story explores the fear and choices the crew made to survive. The library will also have Young Adult versions of the book to offer the community.”

The Middletown Township Public Library looks forward to partnering with numerous organizations to explore Middletown’s deep roots in fishing and maritime commerce, from the same period as of In the Heart of the Sea.  Programs will be for all ages, from shipwrecked family presentations from The NJ Historical Divers Association; to children’s special events from The Whaling Museum & Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor (NY). Local partners include Navesink Maritime Heritage Association, Boatbuilding Program/Historical Artifacts, and book discussions lead by librarians from the library and professors from Monmouth University and Brookdale College.


Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,600 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $22 million to organizations nationwide. Over the past thirteen years, grantees have leveraged more than $50 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 5.7 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, approximately 91,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and 39,000 community organizations have partnered to make NEA Big Read activities possible. For more information about the NEA Big Read, including book and author information, podcasts, and videos, visit

The Middletown Township Public Library was established in 1921, and will celebrate its centennial in 2021. For more information visit


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 Arts Endowment 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. Visit to learn more.


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 35 years. For more information, please visit

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Click HERE to read the NEA press release.
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