Supported by $1.4 million in new grant funding, the National Book Foundation has announced an ambitious plan to start a series of events that will focus on literature's relationship to cultural issues and themes.
The new programs will be produced under the NBF Presents banner which the NBF described as a multi-year project which will add dozens of new engagements to the Foundation’s current programming. One goal of NBF Presents will be to broaden the NBF's outreach to a wide range of American communities and will have a particular focus on regions that are less frequently reached by national literary programs.
“With NBF Presents, the National Book Foundation is reimagining the service that is possible for a literary arts organization,” said David Steinberger, chairman the NBF, which oversees the National Book Awards. “We continue to strive toward a holistic approach to literary access and cultural participation, one that aims to leave no community and no reader overlooked.” In all, the NBF expects that beginning this fall NBF Presents will produce over 30 programs in its first year.
According to the NBF, its new programming will build on some of its most successful existing programs such as NBA on Campus which works with colleges in Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Texas to bring new NBA authors to audiences on their campuses. In another partnering effort, the foundation works with book festivals like Miami Book Fair International and Virginia Festival of the Book to make National Book Awards programming available to their audiences. Using parts of these existing programs as a model, NBF Presents will greatly increase and diversify partnerships with local organizations throughout the United States.
“It’s more important than ever for the country to be having thoughtful, inclusive, national conversations,” said Lisa Lucas, the Foundation’s executive director in a statement. “By forging partnerships across many states and reinforcing the literary resources available in these communities, we hope to help inspire those dialogues that will deepen understanding and create connection between readers across the nation.”
NBF said its new programming efforts is anchored by a $900,000 three-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and also includes additional support from the Art for Justice Fund, Velvet Film with the support of the Ford Foundation, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
The Foundation described its upcoming Literature for Justice series as "a focused project designed to raise awareness and inspire meaningful conversation about the crisis of mass incarceration." The program, funded by a three-year grant from the Art for Justice Fund, will, the NBF explained "use literature to contextualize and humanize the issue of mass incarceration in order to foster change."
The Foundation will also work with Velvet Film, the production company behind the acclaimed 2017 film I Am Not Your Negro, to program Author in Focus: James Baldwin, which is supported by the Ford Foundation. The project, NBF said, "will comprise a year of nationwide educational and public programming centered on the works of seminal author James Baldwin, and seeks to engage a broad, adult reading public, as well as new, younger, underserved, and potentially reluctant readers."
In New York City, the Foundation will present Notes from the Reading Life, a series of four public engagements across the city's boroughs. According to the NBF, "this program will feature non-literary celebrities, such as artists, actors, or comedians, who will discuss their connection to reading and identify books that they would like to recommend to neighborhood residents."