The lineup for the 2012 National Black Arts Festival, which begins Friday and culminates with a music- and art-fueled bash in Centennial Olympic Park next weekend, may look a little lean, even by the standards of recent recession-trimmed presentations.
But while acknowledging that the once-sprawling cultural celebration will be “very compact” this year, new executive director Michael Simanga promises it will be “very impactful.”
Simanga, the former Fulton County Arts and Culture director who was appointed NBAF chief in February, said the organization is “reloading and reorganizing” as it moves toward a long-term goal of becoming a year-round cultural presenter. It is also planning a 25th anniversary schedule for summer 2013 that should rival earlier festivals that spread cultural riches across the city.
But even if this year’s gathering catches the NBAF in transition, there are still a number of worthy events celebrating the art and culture of people of African descent from which to choose.
The biggest, of course, is the party in the park, where the International Marketplace, a bazaar of Afrocentric arts, crafts, books, fashion and more, sets up shop on July 12. The Music Stage cranks up beside it on July 13, featuring acts such as Kindred the Family Soul, products of the Philadelphia neo soul movement (9:15 p.m. July 13), R&B singer-songwriter Anthony David and Friends (7:15 p.m. July 14), smooth soul singer Peabo Bryson (8:45 p.m. July 14) and fluegelhornist Alex Lattimore (4 p.m. July 15).
The Children’s Education Village opens to the public on July 14 (camp and group tours only on July 15, with preregistration), with the theme this year “Destination Afrika and Beyond.” In this interactive village, kids can check out a Ndebele house and meet a Zulu “warrior.”
The free sights and sounds continue through July 15.
The festival also is tucking two major events happening independently in the city under its umbrella: “Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals From Talladega College,” a High Museum of Art exhibit continuing through Sept. 2; and True Colors Theatre Company’s world premiere of Todd Kreidler’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” starring Phylicia Rashad and Tory Kittles at the Rialto Center for the Performing Arts, July 10-29.
Other fest highlights:
“J’ouvert: At the Devil’s Playground,” a free exhibit of photographs by Radcliffe Roye, continues at City Gallery at Chastain through July 28. The Brooklyn photographer explores grass-roots life in his homeland of Jamaica on the 50th anniversary of its independence.
Coretta Scott King Book Fair, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. July 11 at Atlanta’s downtown Central Library, offers a free copy of one of the King prize-winning children’s books to kids with a library card from any municipality. Author Walter Dean Myers and illustrator Michelle Woods will lead separate workshops at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; free but preregistration required at www.nbaf.org.
“Slavery by Another Name: The Dialogue,” 6:30 p.m. July 12 at Mason Murer Fine Art, a panel discussion featuring “Slavery by Another Name” author Douglas Blackmon, documentary filmmaker Sam Pollard, and visual artist Robert Claiborne Morris, moderated by former Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Cynthia Tucker. $50; RSVP via Judy Hanenkrat, 404-730-6369. Morris’ paintings and assemblages continue at Mason Murer through July 28.
“The Gray Room” with Act I of the performance piece “Caliban in the Mirror,” a multimedia installation/memorial to Michael Jackson by Todd Gray, Jackson’s photographer from 1979 to 1984, at Hagedorn Foundation Gallery. Exhibit runs Friday through Aug. 31, with free reception 5:30-8 p.m. July 13.
Actress Ruby Dee will be honored during the NBAF’s annual “A Gathering of Colors” gala. Billed as “A Ruby Evening,” the black-tie event will be held at 7 p.m. July 14 at the St. Regis Atlanta, and women are encouraged to wear ruby red gowns. Tickets for the benefit start at $500; for questions or to reserve, call Judy Hanenkrat, 404-730-6369.
“Turner Voices First Glance Teen Arts Competition,” a free showcase of work by visual, film and performing artists ages 14-18, 3 p.m. July 15 at Morehouse College’s Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.
“Vivian Schuyler Key: Artist of the Harlem Renaissance and Beyond,” though Aug. 26 at Hammonds House Museum. Reception and talk: 2-5 p.m. July 15.
National Black Arts Festival
Friday through July 15. 404-730-7315, www.nbaf.org.