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The Big Read

February 17, 2021 - March 17, 2021

Art Center East and the Cook Memorial Library are teaming up to help bring the Fishtrap Big Read to Union County for the 4th year running!

What it is: The Big Read is a program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts that broadens our understanding of the world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.

This year’s book is In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

In 1819, 20 crew members set sail on a ship called the Essex to hunt whales. They left the popular whaling island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, and headed for the South Pacific in what was to be a routine voyage. Instead, they found themselves part of one of the most horrifying maritime disasters in American history when an 85-foot angry sperm whale rammed and sunk their vessel. For 90 days, the crew drifted in small boats with no sense of where they were in the vast sea. Facing starvation, disease, brutal weather, and a near loss of hope, they succumbed to drastic measures as they fought to stay alive. Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea tells the true story of the crew members’ fight for survival, and the circumstances surrounding the disaster that inspired Herman Melville’s novel, Moby-Dick, 30 years later.

The Mountain Valleys Reading Council is organizing a companion Big Read for students. They have purchased copies of two picture books that will be shared with students in grade K-middle school by the district library staff. They also have provided books to the Cook Memorial Library. They are working on arranging a Zoom chat with the author of one of the picture books.

How do I participate?

Read the book! You can borrow a copy from the Art Center East Gift Gallery or the Cook Memorial Library (print and digital available), or buy a copy from a local book store.

Attend Fishtrap’s Online Events: Throughout February and March, Fishtrap will offer weekly events to help you and your family explore the subject and themes of the book. All events are online this year, including a keynote with the author, Nathaniel Philbrick, talks with representatives from East and West Coast maritime museums, and a free screening of the movie adaptation of In the Heart of the Sea! Check the schedule below, and click the link for the video call. 

Discuss! Gather (online) with your book club, call a family meeting, or join an online discussion to chat about this title and what you’ve learned from attending one of more of the Big Read virtual events.

Because the Big Read is completely virtual this year, in some ways that makes the event more accessible than ever to Union County residents. Fishtrap has designated 40 books for Union County readers and we don’t have to take a treacherous winter drive to attend Big Read events. We encourage you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to celebrate reading and learning with your community!


Schedule of Events

Click the title to be directed to the video link. 

NEA Big Read Kickoff: Whaling with Dr. Lisa T. Ballance

Director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute and Endowed Chair of Marine Mammal Research
Watch it Live Online: Wednesday, February 17 at 1:00pm
Watch it Here Anytime Beginning February 18

Sailor Superstitions

Watch it Live Online: Thursday, February 25 at 1:00pm
Watch it Here Anytime Beginning February 26

Whaling in Oregon

Watch it Live Online: Wednesday, March 3 at 1:00pm
Watch it Here Anytime Beginning March 4

Golden Age of Whaling

Watch it Live Online: Thursday, March 4 at 1:00pm
Watch it Here Anytime Beginning March 5

Sailor Slang

Watch it Live Online: Wednesday, March 10 at 1:00pm
Watch it Here Anytime Beginning March 11



February 17, 2021
March 17, 2021
Event Category:


Art Center East


Art Center East
1006 Penn Ave
La Grande, OR 97850 United States
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