The great reading of the Massillon museum starts on Saturday with free books and exhibitions
MASSILLON – The Massillon museum will open its doors the big read Saturday with several events, including the distribution of this year’s book selection, “An American Sunrise” by American poet Joy Harjo.
The event is scheduled from 1-3 p.m. at the museum, 121 Lincoln Way E.
The Massillon Public Library bookmobile and its staff, along with museum staff, will distribute 1,200 copies of the book free of charge.
Besides, the museum will host opening receptions for two new exhibits that complement the Big Read book.
Harjo will also donate the Big Read Keynote Speech at 7 p.m. on May 5 in the museum’s Gessner Hall.
‘American Sunrise’ offered new opportunities
This is the 15th year the museum has received a grant to participate in Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts to put reading back at the center of American culture.
The book selections for the program aim to unite communities through discussions and programs and to convey universal themes.
Stephanie Toole, the museum’s education and outreach manager and NEA Big Read coordinator, said Harjo’s book was different from book selections from previous years. This is the first time that the book is poetry. In the past, the selections were novels and memoirs, she said.
“An American Sunrise” is a series of poems based on the author’s return to his ancestral lands and his exploration of the relocation of Indigenous peoples in the 1800s.
Harjo is from the Muscogee Nation. His ancestors were forcibly removed by the US military from modern-day Alabama and Georgia and transferred to modern-day Oklahoma.
“The book just gave us new opportunities,” Toole said. “She and her loved ones return home and revisit facets of life, her identity, lost love and generational trauma, but she also celebrates coming home and discovering that part of herself.”
Toole said Harjo is able to marry his poetry with art and history, which is a perfect fit for the museum, she added.
In her work, she evokes several artists, including TC Cannon, a 20th century Native American painter, and Shan Goshorn, whose work focused on the history and future of Native Americans.
The book dealt with the history of land displacement and resistance, Toole added.
What else is planned for Big Read?
More than 30 book events are planned, including in-person and virtual book discussions, film screenings, art classes, and original one-act plays directed and performed by Washington High School students.
Other events include a conversation with Sundance, director of the Cleveland American Indian Movement, and a Brown Bag Lunch featuring Dr. John N. Low, director of the Newark Earthworks Center.
Two exhibits will open Saturday at the museum, including “Un-settling: A Story of Land Removal and Resistance,” featuring works by contemporary Native American artists such as Norman Akers and Jesse Cooday.
The second exhibition, “Threads Moving Backward and Forward: Contemporary Textile Artworks from Ohio,” opens in the Fred F. Silk Community Room Gallery. It features artists Jo Westfall, Benedict Scheuer, Malcolm Dakar and Katie Mongoven.
Big Read brings together partners to reach readers of all ages
La Grande Lecture brings together various community partners to host events and exhibitions.
The Municipal Library of Massillon is the main partner of the Grande Lecture. It will host book talks, as well as a Fry Bread Kids Open House, from noon to 2 p.m. on April 30 in the library auditorium. Fried bread is a puff pastry eaten by Native Americans.
Funding from One Tiger and the Rotary Club of Massillon enabled the museum to purchase age-appropriate books for the Petite Lecture.
Kindergarten through second grade students in schools in the town of Massillon will read “Fry Bread.” Sixth graders will read “Mary and the Trail of Tears” or “Two Roads”. Every sixth grader will receive a copy of the book.
Toole said a few copies of the Little Read selections will be available for distribution on Saturday.
“The relationships that the Big Read programs have facilitated with members of our community are deeply rooted,” said museum director Alexandra Nicholis Coon. “2022 marks the 15th year the Musée de Massillon has been able to harness the power of literature – alongside our key partner, the Massillon Public Library – to explore how book themes connect to everything from fine art and from drama to trivia and astronomy; our multidisciplinary approach to programming The Big Read makes the selection of books accessible to all ages and interests. We are honored to have received this opportunity from the NEA and Arts Midwest.
Toole said this year’s event is exciting as in-person events return. Some activities have remained virtual to allow for greater programming accessibility, Toole said. Masks are optional when visiting the museum, she added.
“We look forward to engaging our diverse community with programming related to the themes of ‘An American Sunrise,'” Toole said. “Big Read programs and events will bring community partners and the public together to examine shared human experiences.”
For a full list of Big Read events and where to find the free books, visit https://MassillonMuseum.org/bigread.
Contact Amy at 330-775-1135 or [email protected]
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