Arkansas Craft School Receives a National Endowment For the Arts

The Arkansas Craft School is one of 62 organizations nationwide, and the only organization in Arkansas, selected to receive a 2022-2023 NEA Big Read grant. A grant of $18,000 will support a community reading program focusing on Sarah Smarsh’s  Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.  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 power of a shared reading experience.

Education in craft arts is a method for transmitting tradition, and strengthening living traditions, while advancing educational, economic and sociality equality,” said Dr. Michael Doyle, General Manager of the Arkansas Craft School.  “Smarsh’s book fits nicely with the activities of the Craft School.  It speaks of the past, and of cultural traditions, while confronting the issues of educational, economic, and social inequality.  We hope we can interest individuals from across the state in reading and discussing Heartland and its connection to life in rural Arkansas.”   

“It is inspiring to see how NEA Big Read grantees like the Arkansas Craft School utilize these books [the NEA’s annual book selections] as launchpads for their own programming, often creating opportunities for community conversations, new partnerships, and encouraging participants to incorporate art into their daily lives,” said Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The NEA Big Read offers a range of titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, aiming to inspire meaningful conversations, artistic responses, and new discoveries and connections in each community. 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 NEA Big Read selection.

“All across America, in communities small and large, the NEA Big Read connects neighbors and inspires creativity,” said Torrie Allen, President & CEO of Arts Midwest. “We’re excited to support grantees like the Arkansas Craft School as they bring the pages of these wonderful books to life through inventive programming.”

Since 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts has funded more than 1,700 NEA Big Read programs, providing more than $24 million to organizations nationwide. In addition, Big Read activities have reached every Congressional district in the country. Over the past 16 years, grantees have leveraged more than $56 million in local funding to support their NEA Big Read programs. More than 5.9 million Americans have attended an NEA Big Read event, over 97,000 volunteers have participated at the local level, and over 40,000 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
For more information on participating in the Arkansas Craft School’s state-wide Big Read of Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth visit the Arkansas Craft School website,,   and click on the “Big Read” tab at the top of the homepage.