Officials unveiled said wrinkles — a new programming model and a three-year strategic vision — last week at Atlanta City Hall.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed pledged to continue his administration’s support of the fest, now in its 26th year, and its cultural underpinnings.
“Atlanta boasts a thriving arts scene and a wealth of cultural offerings,” Reed said. “During the worst of the economic recession, when other governments were choosing to disinvest in the arts, we actually significantly increased funding for the arts in the city of Atlanta … and we are going to do more and more.
“I think we’ve all made it through the worst of the Great Recession. … I intend to help you raise the necessary funds to see to it that the National Black Arts Festival remains one of the most important festivals in the [country].”
Opening night for the festival, billed as the longest running, multi-disciplinary festival celebrating artists of African descent in the U.S., is June 26.
Organizes are lauding the new additions to the season’s lineup of dance, music, theatre, visual art and film showings.
Famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis will serve as the inaugural Spotlight Series curator. In that role, he has tapped a mentor, Jimmy Heath; peer, Marcus Roberts; and protégé, younger brother Jason, to perform as part of the summer’s signature lineup of events.
Elsewhere on the agenda, the fest’s Legends 2.0 sub-program will honor five luminaries in five respective fields. Other highlights include the Harlem Fine Arts Show, multiple world premieres and the usual hot-ticket gala evening.
Festival board chair Sonya M. Halpern addressed festival organizers’ list of objectives for 2014 at last week’s press conference. Forging multiple national partnerships, including a pact with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., is among them.
“The [festival] is recognized as a springboard for new artists, emerging artists. … We will continue to nurture those [talents],” said Halpern. “We have earned a national and international reputation. … We will reintroduce Atlanta as the epicenter of black art.”
“Dramatically” expanding the fest’s youth empowerment campaign, and, in that vein, providing access to world-class teaching artists and free educational performances for area youth are also stated goals.