Celebrating and cultivating established and emerging artists

For three decades, the National Black Arts Festival has advanced the arts and contributions for artists of African descent. With a long legacy of a lively and entertaining festival that features multiple art disciplines, the organization has showcased new and well-known talent for 30 years.

Every year, the Festival brings to life artistic endeavors in music, dance, film, visual arts, theatre, and literary works. Held in Atlanta, but celebrated throughout the art community, the festival is known as the oldest multidisciplinary arts organization in the United States.

Bringing opportunities for artists to showcase and perform in front of a large audience, the Festival has helped many-a-new artist gain popularity. The Festival has grown bigger and bigger each year, bringing in notable artists across the genres. Maya Angelou has been featured during literary events, The Temptations during music, and even Sydney Poitier during film.

“We have a long, deep history of showcasing major performing talent, literary talent, and launching the careers of many visual artists of African descent,” said Vikki Morrow, CEO of the National Black Arts Festival (NBAF).May(2) (9)

“In this 30th Anniversary year we want to pivot, and to figure out how we use this wonderful brand and wonderful legacy to uplift the next generation of artists,” she added.

The events this year will allow emerging artists to receive recognition, and hopefully more work. NBAF collaborates with local organizations to further promote artists, holding a jazz event the second week of September with the High Museum and a Celebration of NBAF event. With the Atlanta Beltline, they will hold a “Second Line of the Beltline” performance the last Saturday in September. At the Chastain, their “30 Years of NBAF” will run from mid-September through mid-October.

The NBAF has also increased and enhanced their educational partnerships. “For the first time, NBAF is doing direct-service in Atlanta Public Schools,” Morrow said. “We are going into underserved areas (Title I schools) and creating arts programs to inspire the next generation of artists.”

This new partnership will create opportunities for kids to express themselves artistically. The MOVE Dance component works with three area middle schools to teach kids dance across disciplines: tap, modern, jazz, ballet, and hip-hop. In addition to learning the trade, they also get the added bonus of health and fitness. In two high school, the NBAF if working on a donor-funded program focusing on visual arts, film & media, and fashion design.

“The kids love it, and when it culminates into a final performance, and they see everything put together, they are over the moon and very proud and feel a real sense of accomplishment,” Morrow said.

One of their biggest collaborations throughout the year takes place for the Fine Art and Fashion Event, in partnership with Neiman Marcus. Held every March, a top-buyer from the store comes in and produces a show. The event also features a chance for local design students to design clothes, have them modeled, and then be scored by an impartial jury. Winners receive a monetary award and great exposure, including a week-long feature in a Neiman Marcus store window.

Up next, the NBAF is holding their annual gala. On July 14th at Flourish, co-chairs Roz Brewer (COO of Starbucks) and her husband John will be joined by Legendary Supporter award-winner Ingrid Saunders Jones, and featured-artists Radcliffe Bailey.

“It is going to be a night of dancing, music, and pheromonal people who come from all walks of life: business, entertainment, the arts industry,” Morrow said. “It is one not to be missed.”