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NBAF's Stephanie Hughley named 2000 CL Award winner 

As the new executive producer of the National Black Arts Festival, Stephanie Hughley faced a difficult task coming into this year's event: to save the struggling festival from a debt-induced downfall. Rising to the challenge, Hughley and team not only managed to eliminate more than $500,000 in debt inherited from previous celebrations, but to make the summer 2000 event a financial success by turning a small profit.

For spearheading the financial turnaround and revitalizing the National Black Arts Festival, Hughley is this year's recipient of the annual CL Award, which recognizes individuals who have contributed to the cultural development of Atlanta.

But Hughley, who also served as the artistic director of the festival from 1988-1992, won't accept all the credit for the 2000 celebration, which brought in more than 15,000 visitors. "The most important thing is pulling together a team of top rate professionals who could not only produce but could produce within the budgetary confines that we had set for ourselves," she says. "We just happened to do a better job at positioning it as the national treasure that it is."

Since 1988, the biennial festival has provided African-American art and artists with a highly visible venue. Despite the national and international attention the event has bestowed upon the city, the festival continued to operate in the red during the '96 and '98 celebrations. The financial woes occurred, in part, because the ambitious scope of the festival called for its events to be scattered throughout the city.

Under the leadership of Hughley, the festival has refocused its energies, centralizing events at the Atlanta University Center, a place Hughley calls "the heart of African-American culture." By making the campuses the epicenter of action, the festival instantly became more accessible to the public, as well as less costly.

Hughley plans on expanding the festival's artistic and cultural programs. She is currently working on initiating year-round programs that will educate and expose audiences to art and culture of African descent.

"The institution at large is about to turn a corner and transition from being this every-other-year, 10-day flash to, hopefully, a year-round cultural institution," she says. "I think we're poised this year to really make that happen, as opposed to scrambling to get out of debt like they were the festival before."

A professional dancer, Hughley has held a variety of jobs in the arts. She most recently served as vice president of programming at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where she implemented similar year-round programs. Her resumé includes positions as a theater/dance producer for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games Cultural Olympiad, general manager of the Negro Ensemble Company in New York City and a board member of the International Society of the Performing Arts.

As this year's CL Award winner, Hughley joins a list of accomplished winners that includes hip-hop producer Rico Wade, Atlanta Opera artistic director William Fred Scott, Alliance Theatre artistic director Kenny Leon and historian Franklin Garrett.

kourtney.eidam@creativeloafing.com

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