Sep 09, 2021 | Featured

Columbia State Receives NEA Big Read Grant

book giveaway
Dr. Victoria Gay, Columbia State dean for the Humanities and Social Sciences Division; Jan McKeel, South Central Workforce Alliance executive director; Melody Murphy, Columbia State director of workforce and continuing education; Patrick McElhiney, development officer and director of grants for the Columbia State Office of Advancement; Dr. Christa Martin, Columbia State assistant to the president for access and diversity; and Anne Scott, Columbia State library director.

Columbia State Community College has been awarded a 2021-2022 National Endowment for the Arts Big Read grant. The featured book is Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Beloved.” 

The NEA Big Read grant supports dynamic community reading programs designed to encourage conversation and discovery, all inspired by a book from the NEA Big Read library. 

Columbia State is one of 70+ nonprofit organizations across the nation to receive a grant to host an NEA Big Read project. Columbia State is the only organization in the state of Tennessee to receive an NEA Big Read grant this year.

“We are thankful to the NEA and Art's Midwest for awarding us this grant,” said Anne Scott, Columbia State library director. “Columbia State is delighted to partner with area organizations to offer Toni Morrison's timely work of literary art, Beloved."

The Columbia State NEA Big Read project kicked off at the First Fridays event in downtown Columbia on September 3 with college staff and volunteers distributing free copies of the novel to the public. 

“Bringing the NEA Big Read back to Columbia and throughout our service area is very exciting,” said Patrick McElhiney, development officer and director of grants for the Columbia State Office of Advancement. “With our partnering organizations, an array of engaging programming and events are planned that really capture the spirit of the NEA Big Read grant program. I am certain these partnerships were key factors in our receiving this grant funding.” 

In addition to book discussions and related events to be held across the Columbia State campuses in the coming months, Maury County Public Library, Spring Hill Public Library and Marshall County Memorial Library also will be hosting planned events as part of the grant project. 

“History’s Hook,” a program hosted by Tom Price on WKOM-FM and available as a downloadable podcast, will dedicate two programs to the novel and related topics, the first of which is expected to air in October.  

South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance will integrate the novel and book discussion in their Adult Education program for individuals seeking their high school equivalency, as well as their Prison Re-entry program. The partners will work together to offer additional programming during the project.

Following the kickoff, a virtual screening of the 1998 film adaptation of the novel, starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover, will be held September 23 - 25. The college will make available 500 special codes that will allow the public to view the film on their personal devices at no charge for a 48-hour window.  

For additional details on the film screening, as well as a continually updated schedule of events, visit

In addition to distribution of free copies of the novel at the First Fridays event, books will be available at program events throughout the project, and can be picked up at the front desk at the Finney Memorial Library on the Columbia Campus Monday –Thursday 8 a.m. - 6 p.m., and on Friday 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

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 joy of sharing a good book.


NEA Big Read Beloved by Toni Morrison