Michael Simanga to lead National Black Arts Festival

The National Black Arts Festival on Friday announced that former Fulton County Arts & Culture director Michael Simanga will become its executive director. A 32-year Atlanta resident, Detroit native Simanga replaces Neil Barclay, who resigned in November.

Simanga’s charge is to “create a new strategic direction, based upon a new business model,” according to an NBAF statement, and to begin planning the NBAF’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2013.

“Michael is mindful of the changing times and conditions that arts organizations face, and will work to complete the transition and develop a new business model for NBAF,” board chair Evern Cooper Epps said.

Founded in 1987, NBAF originally was focused on presenting a sprawling summer festival. In recent years, the organization has pushed to become a year-round presenter. Difficult fund-raising during the recession impeded that progress somewhat and caused Barclay, who arrived in 2009 after leading the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh, to scale down the summer festival based in Centennial Park.

“NBAF is a major cultural institution, recognized by the U.S. Congress in 2008 for its importance to the cultural fabric of greater Atlanta and all of America,” Simanga said. “Our job now is to extend and expand its contribution and ensure it will continue to positively impact the conversation art forces us to have with each other.”

Simanga is co-editor of the recently released book “44 on 44: Forty Four African American Writers on the Election of Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States” (Third World Press, $17.95).