Skip to content

ArtReach St. Croix Receives NEA Big Read Grant For Third Year In A Row

  • by

St. Croix Valley to read and celebrate “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett During NEA Big Read in April 2017

Book cover image courtesy of Vintage/Random House

ArtReach St. Croix is a recipient of a grant of $15,000 to host the NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley. A program of the National Endowment for the Arts, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.

ArtReach builds on the notion that when we connect with community partners, we create things together that none of us could do alone,” said Heather Rutledge, ArtReach’s Executive Director. “We believe hosting NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley connects communities with the literary arts and with each other…in a BIG way!”

ArtReach St. Croix is one of 77 nonprofit organizations to receive a grant to host an NEA Big Read project between September 2016 and June 2017. The NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley will focus on “The Maltese Falcon” by Dashiell Hammett. Activities will take place in April 2017.

Jane Chu, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, said, “I have the opportunity to travel around the country and see the way the arts can inspire, allow for reflection, and create new experiences. I look forward to the creative ways these 77 organizations will bring their communities together around a great work of literature through their participation in the NEA Big Read.”

During early discussions about book selection for the 2017 NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley, the Literary Arts Committee saw “The Maltese Falcon” as a book that would be entertaining and accessible. After diving deeper, we saw parallels to locally relevant stories, hidden histories, art and other objects of desire, noir, neo-noir and jazz-infused experiences. There are stories of crime and demise, but also of rehabilitation and restoration.

NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley events will take place throughout the month of April 2017 from Hastings, MN to St. Croix Falls, WI and will include the popular Read & Release program as well as book discussions, a visual arts exhibition featuring work by inmates of the Stillwater Prison, a touring theatre production, film screenings and a Totally Criminal Cocktail Party.

Everyone is welcome to join ArtReach St. Croix, the Big Read partners, volunteers and readers to celebrate the success of 2016 “Grapes of Wrath” programming and the new 2017 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  On Tuesday, May 31 at 4:00-6:00 p.m., we will gather at Lion’s Tavern, 324 Main Street South, Stillwater, for an informal Happy Hour to share the program plan for “The Maltese Falcon” and the 2017 NEA Big Read.

Managed by Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read offers grants to support innovative community reading programs designed around a single book. The program supports organizations across the country in developing community-wide reading programs which encourage reading and participation by diverse audiences. Organizations selected to participate in the NEA Big Read receive a grant, access to online training resources and opportunities, and educational and promotional materials designed to support widespread community involvement.

For more information about the NEA Big Read please visit

ArtReach St. Croix is a non-profit organization whose mission is to connect the St. Croix Valley community and the arts. ArtReach sponsors community arts events and supports the work of artists and other arts organizations, and provides arts leadership within the St. Croix Valley community.The Big Read Logo

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. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through September 2016. Go to to enjoy art stories from around the nation, peruse Facts & Figures, and check out the anniversary timeline. 

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 visit