August Wilson Center

Heather McClain / 90.5WESA

Throughout the last year we’ve heard, and discussed at length, the problems faced by those who wish to save the financially troubled August Wilson Center.

Right now the fate of that facility is in the hands of a judge who may sell the building to pay off the center’s debts.

Janera Solomon, Executive Director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater acknowledged there were missteps that led to the current state of affairs at the August Wilson Center. She is leading a group committed to achieving a vision for the center that will celebrate August Wilson, African American culture, and the city.

She said while the troubles faced by the August Wilson Center are unique for Pittsburgh, when it comes to cultural organizations throughout the country, many struggle in their first 5 to 10 years. 

On Tuesday morning, the receiver of the bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture convened a meeting with several leaders in Pittsburgh’s black community.

Judith Fitzgerald, the receiver, got the names of those invited from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (no relation). The meeting was an effort to give the community a status update on the center, but several in attendance said communication needs to be better going forward.

A New York developer has emerged as the top bidder for Pittsburgh's bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

The ongoing plight of the August Wilson Center continues with some bidders showing interest and others withdrawing. 

Pittsburgh City Paper reporter Rebecca Nuttall has been covering the ongoing news of the troubled arts center and the latest group of possible bidders.

“The first bid that the public heard about was a $4 million bid from three Pittsburgh foundations, the Heinz endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Richard King Mellon foundation. And a lot of the community seemed to support that a bit.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald have asked for the removal of Judith Fitzgerald (no relation) as receiver of the bankrupt August Wilson Center for African American Culture.  

The mayor and county executive sent a letter Tuesday to Lawrence O’Toole, the administrative judge of Orphans’ Court to remove Fitzgerald.

The debt-ridden August Wilson Center might have a buyer.

A group of local foundations, including the Pittsburgh Foundation, submitted a bid last week to acquire the downtown Pittsburgh African American cultural center which is delinquent on its $7 million mortgage.

Allegheny County Councilman Bill Robinson (D-Hill District) is asking for $10 million to $15 million in capital funds from the city and county to bail out the financially strapped August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

About $7 million would be used to pay off the center’s unpaid bills, including its mortgage, and keep the facility, which is facing liquidation. The legislation was introduced in County Council by Robinson who did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

In 2009, a gleaming performing arts space opened to great fanfare in downtown Pittsburgh.

Named after renowned playwright and native son August Wilson, it was meant to be a hub for African-American theater, art and education.

Today, the August Wilson Center is for sale, unable to pay its bills. But many wonder why it was allowed to get to this point.

August Wilson grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in the 1940s and '50s. He met Sala Udin in parochial school.

August Wilson Center Must Find Deep-Pocket Donors

Feb 6, 2014
AWC / Facebook

The plight of the August Wilson Center has been a source of constant stories in the local media.

Despite liquidation, debt and other fiscal battles many are working hard to save the center.

City Paper reporter Rebecca Nuttall has followed  efforts and provides an update on the latest news regarding the August Wilson Center.

The building, which took $42 million to open in 2009, had more construction costs than were originally estimated and put the center in debt before it had even opened. Nuttall says a lot of the people she talks to seem to have great ideas about how to save the center, but the financial backing may not be available. 

An Uncertain Future for the August Wilson Center

Oct 4, 2013
AWC / Facebook

When it comes to the August Wilson Center's current financial situation, cost and constructions fees caused “substantial debt” from the beginning, says Mark Clayton Southers, a playwright and former producer at the center.

Charlie Humphrey, CEO and Executive Director of Pittsburgh Filmmakers, says a problem the August Wilson Center faces now is that “nobody wants to fund debt” people want “to fund programs.”

Southers agrees that it's hard to fund a sinking ship and adds that some creative solutions are needed to gather enough funds to clear $7 million in debt.

The Interim President and CEO of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture Oliver Byrd said in an interview on Wednesday that his organization is getting itself on the track to financial stability.

On Tuesday, Byrd sent a three-page letter to supporters of the center and to the media, outlining what he sees as the issues the organization has faced and the path they will take moving forward.

Mkonikkara / Wikipedia

In 1973, five American fashion designers and five French designers came together for a Paris runway fundraiser. That fundraiser turned into a competition, and an industry changing event in fashion history. The documentary film, Versailles '73 looks at how that Paris show brought African Americans to the forefront of fashion.  Filmmaker Debra Riley Draper comes to the August Wilson Center this weekend for a screening of the award-winning documentary.

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