Arts at UNCW

UNCW’s Office of the Arts to Receive $95,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

WILMINGTON, NC—UNCW’s Office of the Arts is proud to announce that we have been approved for two substantial arts programming grants. 

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded UNCW’s Office of the Arts a $75,000 Our Town grant to support Roll Call: Creativity Reporting For Duty. This is one of 63 grants nationwide that the agency has approved to support projects that integrate arts, culture, and design activities with efforts to strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes, ultimately laying the groundwork for sustainable systems change. 

The Office of the Arts will collaborate with local law enforcement to create an arts program that unites officers and underserved youth. Participants will work with local artists to design and create a multi-disciplinary project that incorporates visual arts and spoken word using hip hop as an entry point. This project will emphasize the process of using creativity to promote healing and will be part of a larger community initiative to increase awareness around Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). While trauma caused by ACEs can lead to adverse mental and physical health, becoming a trauma-informed community can promote resilience. 

Additionally, UNCW’s Office of the Arts and William Madison Randall Library are one of 61 organizations nationwide selected to receive a 2021-2022 NEA Big Read grant. A grant of $20,000 will support a community reading program focusing on The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. 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 joy of sharing a good book. 

The NEA Big Read offers a range of titles that reflect many different voices and perspectives, aiming to inspire conversation and discovery. This grants program, managed by Arts Midwest, annually supports dynamic community reading programs, each designed around a single NEA Big Read selection. 

The books available for the 2021-2022 NEA Big Read explore different aspects of American history and culture. Grantees develop programming that helps communities reflect on where we’ve been, where we are today, and where we’re going. 

This project will kick-off with a visit from author Sandra Cisneros at Kenan Auditorium. During the six months that follow, there will be multiple book discussions spanning three counties, along with mentorship programs and community engagement initiatives that will include: art exhibitions, poetry slams, and theater performances. The NEA Big Read: Cape Fear events are made possible by the generous support from the New Hanover County Public Library, Pender County Library, Cape Fear Literacy Council, Cape Fear Museum, Cameron Art Museum, Cape Fear Community College, NC Project LEAD, Inc., YWCA of the Lower Cape Fear, Working Films, WHQR Public Media, Brunswick Arts Council, and the Arts Council of Wilmington & New Hanover County. 

“This has been a challenging year, so we are thrilled that the NEA is supporting these programs,” said Fidias Reyes, Director of Arts Engagement. “It is vital that the arts become more prominent in the community, especially now. We want the Office of the Arts to expand its programming to include more arts activism, and this support from the NEA will allow us to do that. Our hope is to offer creative spaces for healing and dialogue as we return to our pre-pandemic lives.” 

In alignment with the university’s commitment to student and community engagement, UNCW’s Office of the Arts provides inspirational cultural programming for the campus community and the larger region. Arts partnerships and programs at UNCW enhance creative inquiry, critical thinking, and thoughtful expression and embrace UNCW’s values of excellence and inclusion. The Office of the Arts curates the UNCW Presents Series, manages Kenan Auditorium, and advocates for the arts on UNCW's campus and in the Wilmington community, in collaboration with the five academic arts departments and community partners. UNCW's Office of the Arts participates in the cultural life of the region as a member of the NC Presenters Consortium and Arts North Carolina. Visit to learn more. 

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. 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 

For more information on the projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, visit 

Dancers in the wings