Break out the champagne, the 2010 National Black Arts Festival (NBAF) begins now. Happening in Atlanta from July 14th through the 18th, the event bills itself is one of the America's "pre-eminent presenters of the art and culture of the African Diaspora." With a beautiful new website that was funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the organization has re-branded itself this year, sporting a green-friendly attitude, which incorporates solar and biodiesel driven stages and a recycling program for its outdoor venues.
Like the Harlem Renaissance of the 1930's and 40's which embraced every aspect of the arts, beyond the bounds of visual art, the NBAF presents literary, theatre and music productions, as well as photography, painting and sculpture. And located in Atlanta's Centennial Park, which was originally built when the city hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics, the festival includes a Children's Educational Village and an International Marketplace for vendors, artists and galleries.
(Image courtesy of Sandler Hudson gallery)
In addition to Downtown activities, satellite venues around the city operate in tandem, highlighting every aspect of the arts, including Sandler Hudson gallery's solo exhibition of Sheila Pree Bright, who has exhibited at the Smithsonian, MoCA Cleveland and The High Museum--exhibiting earlier this year in the Amory Show. Known for dissecting social ideals of "perfect" beauty and normality, Bright melds Barbie doll images with the bodies of ethnic women in an exhibition of photography entitled "Girls Grills and Guns."
(Image courtesy of Hammond House Museum)
Stephen Hayes, Kevin Sipp and Eric Waters are exhibiting in a group show at Mason Murer gallery, and at the Hammond House Museum, the work of artistic virtuoso, Louis Delsarte, exhibits solo.
Various theatres around town, like the Alliance and Horizon are hosting theatrical and musical performances, including an evening of jazz with Melvin Jones at the High Museum on July 15th. "The strength of it is the concentration of these arts events. People plan a trip, they come to Atlanta, and all these things are happening in 5 or 6 days," says collector Byrma Braham.
Of Jamaican descent and having prior lived in New York, Braham is the director of AVISCA Fine Art gallery, located in Marietta; a large affluent suburb on the Northeast side of town. Braham has been attending the event for several decades now, and recalling what it was like in the 1980's she says, "In 1988 I attended...in the early years they had this really impressive artist market at Greenbriar Mall, and a lot of African American artists who were starting to become known were there...for the first time people were able to go an meet some of our own visual artists, like Varnette Honeywood, Paul Goodnight and Frank Frazier."
This year at AVISCA, Braham has curated a 2-person exhibition featuring the works of Zoya Taylor and April Harrison.
Someone else well familiar with festivities is Camille Love, Executive Director of Atlanta's Office of Cultural Affairs. "The quality of the programming is very high...you can anticipate seeing some really outstanding works," she says. And in speaking about the history of the event Love says, "It was founded over 20 years ago in 1988 by Michael Lomax, who was then Fulton County's [Board of Commissioners] Chairman."
Lomax along with former Mayor, Maynard Jackson, was known to be a strong advocate of the arts just at the time Atlanta was becoming an international city, and Love says that Commissioner Lomax "basically created it through the Fulton County Arts Council...funding the first festival of its kind to ensure nationally that African-Americans had an appropriate venue for presentation."
Love is on the NBAF Board of Directors as an ex officio capacity, yet of the oversight and administrative arts organization she runs for the city, Love says that the OCA "is how the city ensures that art and culture is made available to all citizens and visitors...supporting 50 other organizations in a similar way." And this includes noted events like the Atlanta jazz festival, held annually in Piedmont Park, now in existence for 33 years.
Because of its uniqueness, the event holds a special place in the hearts of many African-American arts enthusiasts. However this year, Love says, is extra special, because "the festival is collaborating with the country of Brazil, presenting Brazilfest as part of the NBAF...connecting the African history of Brazil with the African history of the U.S..
For more information, visit the NBAF online or contact Margaret Kongbo at 404 224 3463