The August Wilson Center for African American Culture, previously plagued by financial issues, is finally making strides to open a space dedicated to Black arts. The Pittsburg-based art gallery was opened in 2005 to honor award-winning playwright August Wilson’s legacy and celebrate black artistic work.
The Pittsburg Post-Gazette reports the center has gotten over its previous issues which forced it into foreclosure before opening and after being rescued in 2014, it has now earned funding to expand to fund programming rooted in Black culture.
Max King, Pittsburgh Foundation president and CEO, told the newspaper construction on the Center is moving at a “deliberate” rate. That means the Center will soon move away from mostly being a rental space operated by the Pittsburg Cultural Trust. A $300,000 AWC Programming Fund has been launched in the past two years to support local artists’ projects at the center and to aid the resurrection.
In the first year, 15 of more than 60 organizations that submitted projects for funding were chosen to give proposals to judges. Then, six organizations were awarded grants of up to $75,000. They included the Bill Nunn Theatre Outreach Project which hosted the regional August Wilson Monologue Competition and the Balafon West African Dance Ensemble of Pittsburgh.
The Cultural Trust has helped bring acts from around the world through the Soul Session Series program and a ticketing option called Multiple Choice. It allows guests to choose from a collection of events occurring in one night. Future programming is expected to be headed by AWC Renewal Inc.
But King tells the Post-Gazette “we need to see the community build upon those early successes.”
“We are very grateful to the Cultural Trust, but, ultimately, we want the African-American community to develop most of this programming, and I want a lot of it to be local and regional,” he added.
Aside from the AWC, the non-profit Daisy Wilson Artist Community Inc. is restructuring Wilson’s childhood home at 1727 Bedford Ave. in the Hill District, to restore it as a community arts center and site of cultural tourism.
In August, the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company –founded by Wilson protogé Mark Clayton Southers – will perform “Seven Guitars.” The play was written by Wilson and will be performed weekly in the backyard of the home.