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Cole appointed artistic director at Just Buffalo

Just Buffalo Literary Center, the organization behind the popular Babel reading series and many other local literary programs and projects, announced its appointment of a new artistic director on Monday.

Barbara Cole, Just Buffalo's education director since 2008, will take over for former artistic director Michael Kelleher, who leaves Buffalo this week to become the first director of Yale University's Windham-Campbell Literary Prizes.

Cole, who received her Ph.D. in English and poetics from the University at Buffalo and began her affiliation with Just Buffalo as a teaching artist, guided and helped to expand Just Buffalo's educational outreach activities during difficult financial times.

Cole will be charged with overseeing the increasingly popular Babel series, as well as Just Buffalo's hip monthly poetry, art, food and music salon known as "Big Night." Both series were conceived by Kelleher, and each has brought new audiences into Buffalo's literary scene. Cole's challenge will be to continue the momentum of those programs while bringing her own unique background and experience to bear on the organization.

Cole said she sees the new position as a "daunting opportunity," but one to which her experience and interest in the artistic and educational side of poetry and literature are particularly suited.

"My relationship to Just Buffalo comes from those two backgrounds" -- educational and artistic -- "and as artistic director I'm hoping to bridge even more of a connection between the education department and the artistic programming," she said.

Laurie Dean Torrell, Just Buffalo's executive director, said, "I could not be happier than having this opportunity to promote Barbara into the artistic position. She was an extraordinary education director, and she's extremely well-qualified. I feel very, very lucky that we have someone of this caliber."

In her first public appearance in the new position, Cole will moderate the final reading in this season's Babel series, featuring the Scottish writer Alexander McCall Smith in Kleinhans Music Hall on April 12.