Note to Reader: As NFF went to press, NBAF began a facilitated restructuring process aimed at preserving its mission while establishing a more viable business model.The National Black Arts Festival was started in 1988 with the goal of showcasing art and artists of African descent from around the world. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, NBAF now presents artists in the performing, visual and literary arts to thousands of people who attend its annual event in mid-summer, and reaches many more with its presenting and educational programs during the year. NBAF presents the work of artists from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America, using a variety of indoor and outdoor venues around the city of Atlanta. The Festival presents young and upcoming talent as well as established artists, and has produced shows involving artists, such as Wynton Marsalis, Bill T. Jones, Youssou N’Dour, Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Tito Puente, Harry Belafonte and hundreds more. In 2007, on the verge of its 20th anniversary, the Festival was considering its future options. Its artistic program had received strong praise for many years, but its financial picture was not so rosy. While NBAF had built a strong national reputation and its audiences were loyal and growing, neither the Festival’s ticket revenue nor its private contributions were keeping pace with costs. For many years, the Festival had been one of the few presenters of artists from the African diaspora, but a growing number of presenters were now offering similar content and the Festival’s market niche was shifting. In addition, new technological developments, an increasingly media-savvy public, and a growing audience of young people interested in world culture suggested there might be substantial online markets for the Festival’s programs, its archive of outstanding concerts and its educational programming. NBAF’s concept for the Leading for the Future (LFF) program was to reassert its leadership role in the presenting field by developing NBAF365, a unique online platform that would situate the Festival as the premier global year-round resource for material about the African cultural diaspora. Through this strategy, NBAF intended to create a new model of audience building and revenue generation, and thus, a more stable financial future.
“There is an African proverb that says 'when you plan a journey, it belongs to you, but when you begin the journey, you belong to it.' We’ve had to adapt. We will get to our destination, but it’s not going to be in a straight line.”
Michael Simanga, Executive Director, NBAF