NEA Announces Grant To UND Writers Conference

Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, today announced that the University of North Dakota Writers Conference has been recommended for a grant of $15,000 to support the 43rd Annual UND Writers Conference “humanimal” and the preservation of archival footage from past conferences. 

The UND Writers Conference is one of 1,145 not-for-profit national, regional, state and local organizations recommended for a grant as part of the federal agency’s second round of fiscal year 2011 grants. In total, the Arts Endowment will distribute more than $88 million to support projects nationwide.

An independent agency of the federal government, the National Endowment for the Arts advances artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. Landesman said, “NEA research shows that three out of four Americans participate in the arts. The diverse, innovative, and exceptional projects funded in this round will ensure that Americans around the country continue to have the opportunity to experience and participate in the arts.”

“We are very grateful to have received another grant from the National Endowment for the Arts,” said Crystal Alberts, assistant professor of English and, along with Heidi Czerwiec, co-director of the UND Writers Conference.  “The funds received from last year’s NEA grant enabled us to digitize approximately 76 hours of footage from the 1970-1975 Conferences, as well as make sure that the 2011 Conference was recorded for posterity.  This year’s NEA will allow us to continue building the UND Writers Conference Digital Collection, particularly 1976-1979, which includes footage from Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, William S. Burroughs, and Eudora Welty, among others,” said Alberts. 

The grant will also help support the 43rd Annual UND Writers Conference, “humanimal,” which will take place on UND’s campus March 27-31, 2012.  The 43rd Annual UND Writers Conference will explore the various ways the human and animal worlds intersect.  Czerwiec comments, “animals are a huge part of our world — as pets, livestock, prey, food — and the Conference readings and panels will feature literature that discusses these relationships.  Speakers for the 2012 Conference include Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley, author of A Thousand Acres and Moo, as well as poet, translator, and Grand Forks native Aaron Poochigian.”

Founded in 1970 by Professor John Little, the UND Writers Conference has been held every year since.  While our conference takes place in the heart of the heart of the country, over the past forty plus years, some of the most influential writers of the twentieth and twenty-first century have traveled to Grand Forks to participate, including four Nobel Laureates and twenty-eight Pulitzer Prize winners (Jane Smiley will make twenty-nine).  However, the UND Writers Conference mission remains the same: the Conference wishes to create an opportunity for a rigorous exploration of the literary arts, as well as provide a forum for a local and regional conversation about the arts as tied to the community’s everyday lives.  All conference events are, and always have been, free and open to the public.

“We firmly believe that the UND Writers Conference is a unique and special event that contributes to the quality of life here in Grand Forks, the Red River Valley, and the state of North Dakota.  We are pleased to be recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and hope to be able to continue our proud tradition for years to come,” Alberts said.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.  To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at

For more information, contact: Crystal Alberts or Heidi Czerwiec, co-directors,;