In partnership with Grace A. Dow Memorial Library and the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, Creative 360 is hosting a block-party-style celebration on Saturday, Sept. 25 from 1-5 p.m. with food trucks and live music. They’re celebrating the kickoff of the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) Big Read program.
This grant-funded initiative helps produce a community-wide reading program, complete with special events and programming for all ages over the 10-month duration.
The Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum is one of 61 organizations across the country participating in the 2021-2022 NEA Big Read program. The national program invites communities to apply for funding to hold a year-long book club in their town.
“This year, the Great Lakes Bay Region put a grant in through Saginaw Valley University. Midland County, Bay County and Saginaw County are all participating in this year’s Big Read,” says Laura Vosejpka, executive director at Creative 360.
The reading material for this year is Sandra Cisneros’ book, “The House on Mango Street.”
“’The House on Mango Street’ by Sandra Cisneros is a lovely book; it’s about a young Latina woman growing up in a neighborhood in Chicago,” says Vosejpka. “It’s very much a book about what makes a neighborhood. This book focuses on the Latinx community — it’s an important one for the area. We’re seeing increases in the number of people with that heritage in our community, but also, these overarching themes of diversity and inclusion and what it means to be a part of a multicultural neighborhood seem to be a really important fit for this region.”
Focusing on the theme of neighbors and neighborhoods, this kickoff event also coincides with National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), followed by Neighboring Week (Sept 27-Oct.3). Community members are invited to attend the free event, play games, listen to live music, enjoy food truck cuisine, and pick up a free Spanish or English copy of “The House on Mango Street.”
Vosejpka says this free outdoor kickoff event is a perfect overlap, at the intersection of many cultural and community celebrations.
“Here we have this lovely book that is both culturally relevant because it’s about a Hispanic community that’s happening in the middle of National Hispanic Heritage Month and it’s about a neighborhood, kicking off Neighboring Week. It’s really this wonderful multi-themed party,” she says.
As for the events throughout the year, they don’t all focus solely on reading.
“Each one of our Big Read events will have an arts component to it as well,” Vosejpka says. “Our first one is going to happen Oct. 6, and it’s a mixed-media project called ‘The House on Your Street.’”
The prompt for the project encourages participants to think about what makes your neighborhood special, like the trees, neighborly get-togethers, or music that fills your home’s rooms.
Other activities throughout the reading program include cooking, dancing, and music-related events. The program is recommended for ages 10 and up, but Vosejpka says anyone of any age can relate to the book’s themes and find connections from the program.
.“The Big Read takes a book from more than just being something that you interact with individually,” she says. “Books have settings, characters, and themes, and there’s other ways to explore those things other than just reading about them. Doing art, dancing, listening to music, and even eating food — that’s part of the whole flavor. It’s about a special kind of neighborhood.”
Big Pete’s Street Tacos will have a food truck on-site, and Conjunto Champz will perform live authentic Tejano music. The event is open to everyone and free of charge. It will run from 1-5 p.m. at Creative 360 on Bayliss Street in Midland — outside if weather permits, indoors if weather demands.