August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh Facing Closure

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25 Nov 2013

Pittsburgh's August Wilson Center for African American Culture is facing closure, according to the New York Times.



The $42 million culture center opened in 2009 after raising $36 million from government and private sources. It also took on a $11 million bank loan from Dollar Bank to complete its construction.

In September Dollar Bank sued to foreclose after not being paid for eight months.

Mark Clayton Southers, a former director of its theatre program, said in an interview with the New York Times that the Wilson Center was unable to find an audience among the people portrayed in Wilson's plays.

"You can't build it and they will come," Southers told the Times. "Not when you're trying to work with a community that is not traditional theatregoers or cultural consumers."

Control of the cultural center has been given by a state judge to a conservator, usurping its board in a final effort to avoid liquidation. Dollar Bank is advancing $25,000 to pay the conservator.

Named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who died in 2005, the August Wilson Center presented dance, theatre, jazz and art. Wilson penned a cycle of 10 plays, each for one decade of the 20th century. Almost all of them were set in the Hill District where he grew up — which is located a few blocks from the Center.

A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Wilson's works include Fences, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars.

The center currently rents its theatre to a largely white megachurch on Sunday mornings.