John H. Taylor



People on scaffolding on stage as part of a play.

Adams State College's theater program staged a production of Fahrenheit 451 as part the community's Big Read project. Photo by Sean Weaver

Imagine a world where reading is prohibited and firemen burn books. This is the world of the classic novel Fahrenheit 451. As part of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read project, residents of the rural San Luis Valley in southern Colorado participated in a community reading project that celebrated the popular science fiction book written by noted author Ray Bradbury.

While our NEA grant was for the fall of 2007, we continued the project on our own during the spring of 2008. From October to May, our community celebrated literature and the first amendment. From events with Luis Valdez and Ray Bradbury to cutting edge art and theater, we created an experience that is often more common in major urban areas and on larger universities than in rural areas like ours. And we did it by partnering with schools in 12 school districts, seven public libraries, and other community groups throughout the San Luis Valley which covers a geographic area the size of Connecticut with a population of around 50,000. Among the highlights of our Big Read Project:

  • over 3,000 copies of Fahrenheit 451 were distributed for free to schools in twelve school districts, seven public libraries, and other community locations throughout the rural San Luis Valley;
  • internationally known playwright, director, and activist Luis Valdez of El Teatro Campesino captivated a full house in our ASC Main Stage Theatre as the featured speaker at our 24-Hour Big Read kickoff event;
  • author Ray Bradbury joined 200 college and community members for a charming and inspiring live question- and-answer teleconference;
  • a staged reading of the original script The Novela Project: A Celebration of Oral Storytelling Traditions in the San Luis Valley;
  • Censorship or Protecting Our Youth: A Community Forum with featured guests to discuss the removal and reinstatement of The Golden Compass from Ortega Middle School.
  • Altered Books Art Exhibition featured new works from members of the ""Art Thing"" a coalition of professional artists in the San Luis Valley;
  • the Adams State College Theatre Program staged a production of Fahrenheit 451 from April 25 – May 4, including two student matinee performances for area schools.

and many more events sponsored by schools, libraries, and book clubs throughout the valley.