Safford Library awarded $20,000 Big Read grant

The NEA Big Read grant will support a community reading program that will focus on “The Bear” by Andrew Krivak.

Contributed Article

SAFFORD – The Safford City-Graham County Library is one of 62 organizations nationwide selected to receive a 2022-2023 NEA Big Read grant. A grant of $20,000 will support a community reading program focusing on The Bear by Andrew Krivak from September – November of this year. 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. 

“We are thrilled to be funded for the Big Read for the second consecutive year. This project is unique because it is appreciated by students and adults alike. I am looking forward to their reaction to The Bear,” said Paulette LeBlanc, Friends of the Safford Library President. 

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The Safford City-Graham County Library was awarded an NEA Big Read grant for the second year in a row.

“It is inspiring to see how NEA Big Read grantees like The Safford City-County Library use these books 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, Ph.D., 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 and CEO of Arts Midwest. “We’re excited to support grantees like The Safford City-Graham County Library as they bring the pages of these wonderful books to life through inventive programming.”

The NEA Big Read – Graham County grant is presented in partnership with the Friends of the Safford Library, the Gila Valley Arts Council, The Graham County School Superintendent’s Office, The Graham County Chamber of Commerce, and Eastern Arizona College. A slate of programs will begin with a kick-off at SalsaFest in Downtown Safford in September. Other activities in the fall of 2022 will include book discussions, speakers, a candle-making class, and a photography exhibit featuring work from local middle school, high school, and Eastern Arizona College students.  Free copies of the book will be available countywide. 

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

To find out more about the Safford City-Graham County Library please visit, call 928-432-4165 or visit us at 808 S. 7th Ave in Safford. 

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that is the largest funder of the arts and arts education in communities nationwide and a catalyst of public and private support for the arts. By advancing equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, the NEA fosters and sustains an environment in which the arts benefit everyone in the United States. Visit to learn more.

Arts Midwest believes that creativity has the power to inspire and unite humanity. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest grows, gathers, and invests in creative organizations and communities throughout the nine-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six nonprofit United States Regional Arts Organizations, Arts Midwest’s history spans more than 30 years. For more information, visit