2023-2024 NEA Big Read: Los Angeles

A Catalyst for Community Participation, Civic Engagement, and a Celebration of Los Angeles through Art and Literature

The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) designed to bring communities together, inspire conversation, and broaden our understanding of our world and ourselves. The NEA presents the Big Read in partnership with Arts Midwest.

The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), in partnership with the Los Angeles Public Library, marks its 16th year as a recipient of a NEA grant to host DCA’s Big Read: Los Angeles with the 2023-2024 selection of Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a memoir that tells the story of Chast’s parents’ final years through cartoons, family photos, found documents, and narrative prose.

In-school reading groups start fall 2023. Public events, inspired by the book, will be hosted in spring 2024 and will include exhibitions, discussion groups, reading clubs, film screening, art workshops, festivals, historic tours and more. Partners include the Los Angeles Public Library, the Los Angeles Unified School District, Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory, Tía Chucha’s Cultural Center and Bookstore, CalArts Community Arts Partnership, Collage: A Place for Art and Culture, Libros Schmibros Lending Library, Chinese American Museum, Culinary Historians of Southern California, the Craft Contemporary, Skirball Cultural Center, United Voices of Literacy (UVoL), and DCA’s Community Arts Centers, including: Art in the Park, Center for the Arts Eagle Rock, Watts Towers Arts Center Campus, William Grant Still Arts Center, and William Reagh – LA Photography Center.

NEA Big Read: Los Angeles Programs

(Free and open to the public unless otherwise noted)

> Art in the Park
Reading and Discussion Circle
Sundays, April 7, 14 and 21, 2024, 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. 

Site:     In-person at Art in the Park
5568 Via Marisol Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90042

RSVP: artintheparkla.org/bigread
Cost:  Free

Info:    Art in the Park will be hosting an artist-led reading and discussion circle, and a documentary project that makes space for people, stories, relationships, and processing grief, through showcasing objects from an estate.

Books, coffee and tea will provided. Free and open to the public. RSVP required.

Readers are encouraged to commit to coming each week. 

Art in the Park provides community based arts and cultural programming, with an emphasis on the diverse contemporary and historical communities of Northeast Los Angeles. We foster community engagement and arts accessibility, creating opportunities by providing classes, workshops, exhibitions and performances conducted by both local and visiting artists.

> Art in the Park
Estate of Mind: A Documentary Projected created by Katelyn Dorroh and Robin Lippett
Sunday, April 28, 2024, 12:00 p.m. 

Open House for the Big Read, Saturday, May 11, 2024, 3:00 p.m. to  6:00 p.m.                     

Site:     In-person at Art in the Park
            5568 Via Marisol Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90042

RSVP:  artintheparkla.org/bigread
Cost:    Free

Info:     This documentary project produced by Katelyn Dorroh and Robin Lippett, is an exploration of the things people leave behind when they die and who they chose to bequeath their property and possessions to. Through the personal meaningfulness of people’s inherited possessions, assets, pictures, stories, and shared memories, Estate of Mind seeks to open a dialogue surrounding the universal experience of handling someone’s affairs and estate, and how people ultimately become shepherds for the deceased’s legacy. 

With added inspiration from Roz Chast’s memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, the goal of a collaboration between the Estate of Mind documentary is bring interested community members together to participate in a circle discussion where participants will have the opportunity to share their stories surrounding the objects or assets they have inherited after losing a significant person in their life, as well as share any experiences with handling a person’s affairs or estate, what it meant to them, and the lessons they learned along the way.

For the documentary, the circle discussion events at Art in the Park will be filmed by camera operators experienced in the delicate dance of capturing great footage without drawing attention away from the conversation. Individuals who want to attend the event but choose not to be filmed will also be welcome.

Participants are encouraged to bring an object from an estate, AND most importantly bring their stories and perspectives.

Katelyn Dorroh is an artist based in the vibrant and eclectic Los Angeles area, and has a long history of collaborating with art and community organizations such as Shoebox Projects, Los Angeles LGBT Center, KCHUNG, and Yarn Bombing Los Angeles (YBLA). Their artwork manifests itself through a multitude of mediums, incorporating elements of painting, sculpture, and installation to create dynamic and thought-provoking exchanges. After a transformative position at Dektor Film Group, Dorroh is entering a new chapter of their artmaking by introducing the medium of film into their repertoire, as co-creator and executive producer of Estate of Mind. 

Robin Lippett managed international showjumpers for ten years up to 2016. She serendipitously got her start in the film industry on Season 3 of the FX Series, Fargo (2017) in Calgary, Alberta. After becoming a member of the Directors Guild of Canada as an Assistant Director, Robin moved to Vancouver to work as an AD on productions such as the Netflix Series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018), the CW series the 100 (2018) and Antlers (2021) – a feature directed by Scott Cooper and produced by Guillermo Del Toro. Making her way to Los Angeles in 2019, Robin worked for the prolific producers Roy Lee and Miri Yoon of Vertigo Entertainment on the Amazon series, Them (2021), the Olivia Wilde directed New Line Cinema feature, Don’t Worry Darling (2022), and the Netflix feature, The Mother (2023), starring Jennifer Lopez. Now, as an independent producer, Robin has two features in post-production and is excited to begin production on the documentary, Estate of Mind, along with fellow co-creator, Katelyn Dorroh.

> Center for the Arts Eagle Rock
Food is Family
Book Club Meeting: Sunday, April 28, 2024, 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Book pickups ongoing March to April, 2024

Email: info@cfaer.org to reserve a copy

Site:  Center for the Arts Eagle Rock
2225 Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90041

For ages 18+, please register in advance at linktr.ee/cfaer
Cost:    Free

Info: A generational community recipe book and potluck book group honoring our parents, their parents and generations to come by creating an indelible story of family – both personal and universal – through the foods, traditions and stories that make each family unique. Through a book circle and recipe exchange and discussion, participants in the project will have their family recipes and anecdotes gathered, illustrated and bound in an old-fashioned spiral cookbook to create a community offering that is a celebration and exploration of how Food is Family. Friends, neighbors and people new to the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock and DCA community will gather for a potluck featuring the illustrated family recipes from the project cookbook, to celebrate our families and each other. Using the graphic novel as a springboard to explore what is remembered and what remains as our parents age and we along with them – and the heartbreak, joy and reckoning that this brings – through food we find a shared language and experience that crosses generations, identities and cultures and binds us together through time, memory and taste. 

Center for the Arts Eagle Rock’s mission is to be innovative in providing multidisciplinary, arts-inclusive programming to the diverse communities of northeast Los Angeles and beyond. We are proud to provide access to the transformative powers of the arts in celebration of our shared community and each other. 

For more information, email info@cfaer.org

> William Grant Still Arts Center
Community Reading
Starts February 22, 2024

Site:      William Grant Still Arts Center
2520 W View St
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Cost:    Free

Info:       Community, culture and literature come together at the WGS’s. The WGS will host a community    reading and discussion of this year’s Big Read title Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Founded in 1977, William Grant Still Arts Center is a facility of the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs offering summer camp, creative workshops, music and art classes for adults and youth, an exhibition space, concerts, and a place for community meetings and the neighborhood to come together.

The Center offers:

  • Art, movement, and music classes for seniors, adults, teens, and children, including early childhood education;
  • Professionally-produced exhibitions that include the annual Black Doll Show, and the African-American Composers Exhibition and Education series that displays archives and teaches music and art through the life and work of a selected composer;
  • Art & Jazz Summer Day Camp for ages 3-12;
  • Jazz-based ensemble instruction;
  • Partnerships with teachers at local schools and universities; and
  • Readings, film screenings, and concerts throughout the year

Our namesake, Dr. William Grant Still, first coined the term “art music,” which is very much in line the educational goals of our community arts center. All of the William Grant Still Arts Center’s programs are free or are as low-cost as possible, to be accessible to all in our community.

For more information, visit wgsac.wordpress.com/

> Los Angeles Public Library
NEA Big Read: Los Angeles: Keynote Event
Thursday, May 23, 2024, 4:00 p.m. (online)

Site:     LAPL’s YouTube channel

Hosted and presented for virtual audiences by the Los Angeles Public Library

Info:      Los Angeles Public Library is proud to present this thoughtful conversation examining the themes of this year’s Big Read book, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

The death of a loved one is both singularly unique as well as a universal experience that people of every background share. Whether the passing is shockingly immediate or excruciatingly long, the journey from grief to acceptance is one that we all will take at some point in our lives. Join Rabbi Steve Leder and poet Victoria Chang as they explore these topics in a heartfelt conversation, seeking to uncover perspectives that transcend differences and foster connections in our shared human experience. 

Streaming live on the Library’s YouTube channel.

Victoria Chang received a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship as well as the 2023 Chowdhury Prize in Literature. She served as a contributing editor of Copper Nickel, On the Seawall and poetry editor of The New York Times Magazine and Tupelo Quarterly. She currently serves as the Bourne Chair of Poetry at Georgia Tech and the Director of Poetry@Tech.

Rabbi Steve Leder currently serves as the Senior Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, a prestigious synagogue in Los Angeles with two campuses and 2,400 families. He is the author of five books, including For You When I Am GoneNewsweek Magazine twice named him one of the ten most influential rabbis in America, but most important to Steve is being Betsy’s husband and Aaron and Hannah’s dad.

For more information, visit lapl.org/big-read-2024

> Collage: A Place for Art and Culture
Exiles in Paradise: How Jewish Refugees in LA Enriched American Music
Sunday, May 26, 2024, 7:30 p.m.

Site:     Collage: A Place for Art and Culture
731 S Pacific Ave
San Pedro, CA 90731

This program will be available both live and livestreamed.

Info:      Jews who fled the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930’s flocked to California. Many became involved in the film and music industry, enriching American and world culture in the process. This program features soprano, filmmaker, and scholar Christina Linhardt and renowned pianist Brian Pezzone, who will tell the stories behind the composers and their work as well as perform them.

COLLAGE is an arts venue in San Pedro that opened in July 2021. The mission of COLLAGE is to serve both the local and broader community with programs that are adventurous yet accessible. This is done by taking an expansive view of art that can include the visual, performative, culinary, and literary world, and making culture inclusive to consider ethnicity, affinity, ability, and emerging ways people are brought together.

COLLAGE builds relationships with artistic and cultural communities and provides a space where they may come together to teach, learn, and entertain

For more information, visit collageartculture.org.

> Craft Contemporary
Craft Lab Family Workshop: Printed Cartoons and Caricatures with the NEA Big Read!
Sunday, June 9, 2024, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Site:                Craft Contemporary
5814 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Cost:               $10 per person / free for Craft Contemporary members  

Space is limited. Advance tickets are required. All adults and children aged 3 and up must have a ticket to take part in the program. Craft Contemporary Members should only reserve the number of member tickets that their membership allows. Non-member guests should purchase general admission tickets. A limited number of free general admission tickets are available to Big Read program participants.

Info:               Join teaching artist Billie Rae Vinson to create printed family portraits in conjunction with this year’s NEA Big Read: Los Angeles! Using simple print-making techniques participants will make exaggerated caricature artworks inspired by this year’s Big Read novel, Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? In her memoir Chast tells a story filled with laughs and tears, as she represents her parents’ final years through four-color cartoons, family photos, and narrative writing. Craft Lab is for all ages, everyone is welcome! 

Founded as a museum in 1973, Craft Contemporary reveals the potential of craft to educate, captivate, provoke, and empower. With a focus on contemporary art made from craft media and processes, Craft Contemporary presents dynamic exhibitions by established and emerging artists and designers who are often underrepresented in larger art institutions. Craft Contemporary complements these exhibitions with a creative line-up of educational programs, including hands-on workshops led by professional artists. Craft Contemporary cultivates an environment for people in Los Angeles to deepen their relationship to art, creativity, and one another.

For more information, please visit: craftcontemporary.org/programs/craft-lab-family-workshop-printed-cartoons-and-caricatures-with-the-nea-big-read.

> Grand Park
Easy Mornings
Saturday, April 20, 2024, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 27, 2024, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Site:                In-person at Grand Park
200 N Grand Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Cost:               Free and Open to the Public

Info:                 Grand Park’s Easy Mornings offers a free program highlighting arts & culture, educational programs, and community health while offering Angelenos ways to experience joyful and creative opportunities to deepen relationships with family, community, parks, and their playful selves. Grand Park’s favorite food trucks and vendors will offer food and beverages for purchase; on-site picnicking is encouraged.

This year’s Easy Mornings celebrates an exploration of our natural landscapes and environmental awareness by honoring Earth Day and green living. Programs feature nature-based workshops and experiential activities inspired by clean energy methods and sustainability. The programs will also spotlight engaging performances and activations for the entire family including sports games, dance, music making, planting, tie-dying, yoga, crafts and so much more.

Stop by the NEA Big Read: Los Angeles booth where an art project will celebrate Mother Earth and the mothers and mother figures in our lives.

For more information, visit grandparkla.org

> Libros Schmibros Lending Library
Community Engagement and Book Giveaway
The Month of May and June, 2024

Site:      Libros Schmibros Lending Library
103 Boyle Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Cost:               Free

Info:                Stop by Libros Schmibros to pick up a free copy of this year’s NEA Big Read featured title, by Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?  (while supplies last)

Libros Schmibros Lending Library seeks to foster the literary and cultural life of Boyle Heights, a once majority-Jewish, now majority-Latino, neighborhood of Los Angeles. Founded in 2010, Libros Schmibros offers low- or no-cost literature and literary events to everybody east of the ocean. Working with local residents, artists, writers, readers, and public officials, Libros Schmibros is dedicated to both the exploration of literature and the study, questioning, celebration, and betterment of Southern California. Libros Schmibros advocates for the literary arts through public presentations, workshops, film series, museum exhibitions, reading groups, symposia, and conferences.

For more information, please email: info@librosschmibros.org.

> Skirball Cultural Center
Big Read at the Museum
May and June, 2024

Site:                  Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90049               

Info:                  In partnership with this year’s NEA Big Read: Los Angeles, program participants, including Los Angeles Unified School District high schools, will visit the Skirball to view the museum’s exhibitions. Students will receive a Family Pass for return visits.

The Skirball Cultural Center is a place of meeting guided by the Jewish tradition of welcoming the stranger and inspired by the American democratic ideals of freedom and equality. We welcome people of all communities and generations to participate in cultural experiences that celebrate discovery and hope, foster human connections, and call upon us to help build a more just society.

Open to the public since 1996, the Skirball is one of the world’s most dynamic Jewish cultural institutions and among the leading cultural venues in Los Angeles.

For more information, visit skirball.org.

> Tía Chucha’s Cultural Center & Bookstore
Celebrating Words Festival
Saturday, May 18, 2024, 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Site:      Vaughn G3 Academy
13330 Vaughn St
San Fernando, CA 91340

Cost:    Free

Info:      Come to a celebration of words and check out the festival’s Big Read activity. Explore themes of intergenerational connections, memory, and aging, with a local artist who will lead a hands-on art workshop.

Celebrating Words: Written, Performed & Sung is the only annual literacy and arts festival in the San Fernando Valley. The festival offers a variety of author readings, musical presentations, and free cultural arts workshops.  

The mission of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore is to transform communities in the Northeast San Fernando Valley and beyond through ancestral knowledge, the arts, literacy and creative engagement. 

For more information, contact jackie@tiachucha.org.

> CalArts Community Arts Partnership
October 2023 to June 2024 (Afterschool program)


Site: Center for the Arts Eagle Rock, Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center at Watts Towers Arts Center, Pacoima City Hall, William Reagh Los Angeles Photography Center, Wilmington Public Library,and one class online

Cost: Free 

Info: Students in the Sony Pictures Media Arts Program will read this year’s NEA Big Read: Los Angeles companion title, Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversation, by Mira Jacob. Good Talk is a graphic novel about identity, family, and the realities that divide us. The story addresses race, color, stereotypes, and love. Taking inspiration from the book, students will create original short films. The program culminates in a public screening of the artwork produced by the students, to be presented at an in-person event. 

This 30-week, tuition-free media arts program, held after-school twice a week, is for middle school students aged 10 to 16. Students learn drawing and painting techniques and how to draw from a model, animate, put together an art portfolio, and create artwork on computers. 

This program is part of the Sony Pictures Media Arts Program, a partnership between the CalArts Community Arts Partnership, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

For more information, please visit calarts.edu/ca

Film Screening: A Culminating Celebration of Animated Shorts Created by Youth 

> Sony Pictures Media Arts Program Screening
Saturday, June 8, 2024 (In-person event)

Film Screening: A Culminating Celebration of Animated Shorts Created by Youth 

A partnership of the Department of Cultural Affairs, CalArts Community Arts Partnership and Sony Pictures

Site: James Armstrong Theater 

Torrance Cultural Arts Center
3330 Civic Center Drive
Torrance, CA 90503

Cost: Free 

Info: Animated shorts create by youth in the Sony Pictures Media Arts Program will be screened for the community. 

The films are the result of a 30-week, tuition-free media arts program, held after-school twice a week, is for middle school students aged 10 to 16. The following are the sites where the program is offered: 

Center for the Arts Eagle Rock, Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center at Watts Towers Arts Center, Pacoima City Hall, William Reagh Los Angeles Photography Center, Wilmington Public Library, and one class online.

This program is part of the Sony Pictures Media Arts Program, a partnership between the CalArts Community Arts Partnership, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

For more information, please visit calarts.edu/cap.

> Los Angeles Unified School District
In-School Partnerships

Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will read Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast and this year’s companion title, byMira Jacob, Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversation, as part of the in-school partnership with the NEA Big Read: Los Angeles program. Classroom activities include guided lesson plans, teacher-facilitated discussions, and student projects that will culminate in community celebrations.

School partners are key to the success in fulfilling the mission of the NEA Big Read, our nation’s literacy initiative. Since 2008, the program has grown to reach an increased number of students in middle schools and high schools.

Participating schools receive educational materials for teachers and students, including a Teacher’s Guide, a Reader’s Guide, a Big Read banner, bookmarks, and a copy of this year’s book, for every school participant. Schools are also provided support for field trips, art supplies, guest speakers, or other resources that offer students a learning experience to deepen their engagement in the program.

The Big Read title is a part of the curriculum with lessons to further enrich students’ experience reading the book and an understanding of the story’s themes. Each school hosts either a related activity or event inspired by the book, such as a community festival, a film screening, an exhibition of artwork, a public reading of creative writing pieces, culinary components, field trips, art making sessions, and more.  The program and all related school activity will take place on school campus for the school community.

The NEA Big Read: Los Angeles in Schools Program promotes intra-cultural exchange, celebrates cultural connections, and fosters civic engagement. It also places an emphasis on students as catalysts for creativity and interaction.

2023-2024 partner schools include:
Franklin High School
Lincoln High School
Mendez High School
Sylmar Charter High School – Sylmar Biotech
Taft Charter High School

2023-24 Past Events

> Autry Museum of the American West
Big Read Kick off at Autry Community Celebration in Griffith Park

When:               September 30, 2023, 12:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Site:                  Autry Museum of the American West
Griffith Park
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Cost:                  Free

Info:                  The Big Read kicks off at the Autry Museum’s 35th anniversary, with a museum-wide festival that includes museum tours, food, live performances, carnival games, petting zoo area, and community booths. Outdoor portion of this special event takes place in the south lawn.

The Big Read booth will distribute a free children’s activity book about Los Angeles landmarks and the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs art centers and cultural spaces.

For more information, visit the autry.org.

> Chinese American Museum
Spring Festival

When:   March 2, 2024 | 12:00 – 5:00 PM

Site:    Chinese American Museum
425 N Los Angeles St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Info:      The Big Read celebrates spring with a book give-away at the Chinese American Museum’s (CAM) festival.  Every year, over 10,000 Southern California residents attend the free event at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument in Downtown Los Angeles. This festival engages multi-generational families in the sharing of Chinese American culture, building of community relations, and celebrating our city’s diversity. Visitors learn about the historical and cultural contributions of Chinese Americans through various activities throughout the day.

This year’s Big Read booth will invites visitors to learn about the NEA Big Read: Los Angeles and will encourage Angelenos to discover the joys of reading for pleasure.

The Chinese American Museum (CAM) is the first museum in Southern California dedicated to the Chinese American experience and history in this region.

The mission of the Chinese American Museum (CAM) is to foster a deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, America’s diverse heritage by researching, preserving, and sharing the history, rich cultural legacy, and continued contributions of Chinese Americans.

For more information, visit camla.org.

For more information about the NEA Big Read program in Los Angeles, please contact elizabeth.morin@lacity.org.

For more information about the NEA Big Read Program: LA, please contact elizabeth.morin@lacity.org 

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