Art Forms and Theatre Concepts might not be the most active theater company in Charleston, but they’re one of the oldest. They’re celebrating their 15th season of representing the African-American arts community by presenting Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky.

“We are at a point now when we’re pretty much considered ambassadors for the City of Charleston,” says founder Art Gilliard. “When dignitaries are in town, they request excerpts from something we are working on. … We continue to get a lot of support from the City of Charleston — after all, they were the ones that asked us to create the company to meet that goal.”

The initial hope was to diversify Charleston’s arts scene, and that’s exactly what the company does. Since their inception, they’ve produced more than 30 plays starring local African-American talent and written by predominantly African-American playwrights.

Art Forms and Theatre Concepts has been performing as part of MOJA since its creation. This year’s offering, Blues for an Alabama Sky, looks at five people living during the Harlem Renaissance and the struggles that they face. The production will star five local actors, including Keith Alston, who played Martin Luther King in the recent production of Mahalia during Piccolo Spoleto.

“It truly is a sizzling production,” Gilliard says. “Pearl Cleage has been a master of developing her characters, and her characters really reflect what was going on in the 1920s and ’30s in Harlem.”

Gilliard says that while they’ve encountered many of the same financial issues as other arts organizations over the last few years, they’ve also managed to grow significantly. They’re attracting new writers and larger audiences, presenting world premieres, and they’ve been asked to perform at the National Black Theatre Festival on multiple occasions.

“I think we answer a specific request,” Gilliard says of their success. “A lot of people coming to the Lowcountry are looking for the African-American, Gullah experience and those things that relate to that experience. We try to do things that tell the story of the African Americans.”

One thing they have struggled with, however, is finding a permanent home. They started out at the Dock Street Theatre, and since then they’ve been searching for a comparable venue. Their goal is to find a 6,000-square-foot warehouse space, preferably on the peninsula, that will allow them to produce more shows as well as host classes and rehearsals.

Gilliard notes that AFTC isn’t the only African American organization struggling with venue issues.

“I think there’s a lot going on, but limited space on the peninsula limits African Americans’ involvement in things on the peninsula,” he explains. “North Charleston has more opportunities as far as space is concerned, so a lot of what happens happens in North Charleston, Goose Creek, and Summerville, because they have a lot more venues.”

He hopes that having more venues will result in a community that is more supportive of the arts.

“When you educate a population about the arts,” Gilliard says, “they become used to and appreciate a certain environment.”