Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Group Lists Goals for Wilson Center

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Group Lists Goals for Wilson Center

Article excerpt

More accountability, better connections to the greater arts community, and a full embrace of its namesake are among the goals for a new and improved August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

Members of the AWC Recovery Committee, a group of volunteers dedicated to saving the debt-ridden organization, revealed its vision for "August Wilson Center 2.0" at a press conference today, emphasizing that it is not interested in a part-time gig as part of a hotel development.

The group"s plan is predicated on the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation winning the battle to buy the center's Liberty Avenue building for $7.2 million and continuing to use it for African American arts and culture. It is competing against New York developer 980 Liberty Partners, which wants to build a hotel atop the center while providing limited free space for the August Wilson organization to operate.

Former city councilman Sala Udin, a member of the AWC Recovery Committee, stressed the group is not interested in the latter arrangement.

"We are here not to build a hotel. We are here to build a fully dedicated August Wilson Center for African American Culture," he said.

Led by Janera Solomon, executive director of the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty, the committee's first interim report was the product of three public meetings and conversations with about 70 stakeholders, including artists.

Ms. Solomon said what the committee found was that despite the financial difficulties and mismanagement that plagued the August Wilson Center in the past, leading to a default on its $7.9 million mortgage, the vision for a dynamic hub dedicated to African American arts and culture still mattered.

"We heard that loud and clear," she said.

As part of its first report, the group acknowledged that the center had lost the confidence and trust of the community and that both needed to be re-established, not only through a new diverse and committed board but by crafting an organizational model that would be sustainable long term. …

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