The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s story of an Oklahoma family’s flight from the dust bowl in the 1930s, will be featured in multiple upcoming UCF events as part of the national Big Read’s annual community reading project – including a production at the UCF Celebrates the Arts festival, an art exhibit and other activities.

UCF’s participation in the Big Read, a program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, will kick off 3-5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, at the John C. Hitt Library foyer, where complimentary copies of the book will be available. At 5 p.m. there will be a reception and opening of an art exhibit at the UCF Art Gallery that will focus on conservation, migration, agriculture, poverty, homelessness, and local food security. UCF and the Seminole County Public Library received an NEA grant of $16,000 to host the Big Read in Orange and Seminole counties.

After Monday’s opening events, for several weeks a variety of art exhibitions, books clubs, film screenings, panel discussions, game showcase and other programs will be presented, including the reading from the  Tony Award-winning adaptation of the book April 8 at UCF Celebrates the Arts at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

With a cast of more than 30 UCF guest artists, faculty, staff, alumni and students, the School of Performing Arts will tell the story of the Joad family’s desperate flight from the dust bowl after the loss of their farm. The festival also will include some tableau vivant – living art – student creations inspired by the book.

The April 7-14 UCF Celebrates the Arts festival will present more than 1,000 university students, 100 faculty members and some collaborative programs with outside partners to showcase theatre, dance, orchestra, choirs, big band, chamber music, cabaret, concert bands, opera, visual arts, studio art, gaming, animation, photography and film at the festival.

“This is a great opportunity for UCF to engage the community in a discussion of art and literature,” said Keri Watson, an assistant professor of art history, who secured the grant to support the Big Read. UCF is one of 77 nonprofit organizations around the nation to receive a grant to host events related to The Grapes of Wrath, this year’s book chosen for the project.

“With this grant, we join a select few ‘repeat readers’ who have received the grant more than once,” Watson said. Last year UCF celebrated Zora Neale Hurston and her book Their Eyes Were Watching God.

The art exhibit, In the Eyes of the Hungry: Florida’s Changing Landscape, focuses on demographic, geographic and ecological shifts, with an emphasis on human relationships and the environment. The art to be shown explores ideas ranging from agriculture and industrialization to migration and tourism to ecology and conservation.

The exhibit will be on view at the UCF Art Gallery Feb. 27-March 3, and then at Terrace Gallery in Orlando City Hall March 13-April 23.

Watson, who curated the exhibition, will present a talk about the show 1-2 p.m. Feb. 28 at the art gallery.

For a complete list of UCF activities for the Big Read, click here.

Ticketing and full schedule details for UCF Celebrates the Arts are posted at All events are free, but tickets are required for performances and entrance into the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 445 S. Magnolia Ave., Orlando. A limited number of reserved seats at $20 will be available March 1-8.