After an extensive national search, the board of the Loft Literary Center found its new executive director right in its own front yard — Arleta Little, a poet, writer, arts administrator and fierce advocate for racial justice.

Little has directed the McKnight Artist Fellowships for the past eight years, a nearly $3 million program that provides support for artists in Minnesota. Before that she served as executive director of the Givens Foundation for African American Literature in St. Louis Park.

Loft teaching artist David Mura, who served as a consultant to the search committee, praised the selection. "Arleta Little is the ideal executive director to help the Loft address the new challenges to literature, creative writing, racial equality and nonprofit arts organizations," he said in a statement.

Little holds a bachelor's degree from Penn State University, a master's degree in social work from the University of St. Thomas and St. Catherine University, and a Master of Public Affairs in public and nonprofit leadership and management from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Her essay "Life and Death in the North Star State," published in Water-Stone Review, has been nominated for a 2022 Pushcart Prize. Her writing has also appeared in "We Are Meant to Rise" and "Blues Vision." She also collaborated on Josie R. Johnson's memoir, "Hope in the Struggle."

Little, who will start the new job in March 2022, replaces Britt Udesen, who left in May. Managing director Beth Schoeppler will continue to serve as interim director part time until March.