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Pittsburgh Center Honoring Playwright Finds Itself Short on Visitors and Donors
NY Times ^ | 11/23/13 | Trip Gabriel

Posted on 01/31/2014 5:51:52 AM PST by raccoonradio

The bank has sued to foreclose. The city’s philanthropic groups, with names like Mellon and Heinz, have withdrawn support. The $42 million August Wilson Center for African American Culture, a bow-front building inspired by a Swahili sailing ship, is high and dry.

Named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who found a street-savvy poetry in the lives of poor Pittsburgh blacks, the culture center’s plight has been especially painful for those who had hoped it would enshrine the music, art and literature of the urban world he knew.

Instead, it appears to be a victim of mismanagement by its senior staff and board of directors, who borrowed to build a grand palace of culture, but failed to find a wide enough audience and donor base in the hometown of Wilson, whose plays are mostly set in the Hill District just blocks away.

... a state judge handed control of the cultural center to a conservator, usurping its board in a final effort to avoid liquidation. The bank that holds the mortgage, which has gone unpaid for months, is advancing $25,000 to pay the conservator. The culture center is flat broke.

Mark Clayton Southers, a former director of its theater program, said the Wilson center struggled to find an audience among the people Wilson portrayed: working-class blacks, many of whom feel unwelcome downtown with its skyscrapers and largely white-owned businesses, he added.

“You can’t build it and they will come,” Mr. Southers said. “Not when you’re trying to work with a community that is not traditional theatergoers or cultural consumers.”

(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...


TOPICS: Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: augustwilson; pittsburgh; suckers
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Yes We Can't.

Visited there about a yr after it opened...expensive building but sparsely attended. The NYT article says that these days they make a small amount of money by renting it out on Sundays to a largely white megachurch.

Unwelcome downtown? Pitt. has a nice modern subway system, and there's fairly cheap parking nearby at the Grant St Transpo Ctr.

1 posted on 01/31/2014 5:51:52 AM PST by raccoonradio
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To: raccoonradio

2 posted on 01/31/2014 5:52:21 AM PST by raccoonradio
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To: raccoonradio

Yes, I never. I have no idea who that playwright is, nor have I ever cared.


3 posted on 01/31/2014 5:54:06 AM PST by Gaffer
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To: raccoonradio
You're not supposed to say this, but put Eric Holder's people in charge of anything and the money just seems to disappear.
4 posted on 01/31/2014 5:54:15 AM PST by E. Pluribus Unum (The only way women can "have it all" is if men aren't allowed to have anything.)
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To: raccoonradio

Is anyone surprised? Check out Detroit. Or the corruption in charter schools in Dallas. Or Obama’s nine trillion dollar deficit spending.

The grifter class can’t handle money. It seems to disappear when in their hands.


5 posted on 01/31/2014 5:56:01 AM PST by txrefugee
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To: raccoonradio
Instead, it appears to be a victim of mismanagement by its senior staff and board of directors, who borrowed to build a grand palace of culture, but failed to find a wide enough audience...

Sounds a lot like a well known disciple of Bill Ayers that I know.

6 posted on 01/31/2014 5:56:07 AM PST by Gay State Conservative (Osama Obama Care: A Religion That Will Have You On Your Knees!)
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To: raccoonradio

This has been a local story for some time. So it made the NY Slimes now? I can guess they’re hoping for a rich benefactor to swoop in and save them.


7 posted on 01/31/2014 5:56:49 AM PST by rightwingintelligentsia (Democrats: The perfect party for the helpless and stupid, and those who would rule over them.)
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To: Gaffer
I have no idea who that playwright is, nor have I ever cared.

It appears that the Heinz and Mellon foundations agree with you. I've certainly never heard of the guy, does that make me a racist? lol

8 posted on 01/31/2014 5:57:56 AM PST by Night Hides Not (For every Ted Cruz we send to DC, I can endure 2-3 "unviable" candidates that beat incumbents.)
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To: Gaffer

Yes. One bit of Pittsburgh black history done well is an exhibit on Negro League Baseball in the sports section of the John Heinz History Museum. There were legendary jazz clubs
and artists like George Benson, etc.

I almost thought when I heard the name that August Wilson was the playwright of Hot l Baltimore, a short lived Norman Lear series about a flophouse. Looked up—ah, right church wrong pew. LANFORD Wilson wrote that play.


9 posted on 01/31/2014 5:58:26 AM PST by raccoonradio
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To: raccoonradio
“You can’t build it and they will come,” Mr. Southers said. “Not when you’re trying to work with a community that is not traditional theatergoers or cultural consumers.”

Hasn't he called P Diddy, Kanye, Jay-Z, or Beyonce?

10 posted on 01/31/2014 5:59:48 AM PST by Night Hides Not (For every Ted Cruz we send to DC, I can endure 2-3 "unviable" candidates that beat incumbents.)
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To: rightwingintelligentsia

It made the NY Slimes in Nov but I had heard about the troubles some months ago, and someone at the Toonseum (a cartoon museum across the street) posted a Trib-Review article (on Facebook) about poss. auctioning off of artwork...

I do know the one time I did visit (free and worth it) I saw the names of a bunch of benefactors like US Steel but maybe they gave money to help open it...but that was it, and it didn’t make money, so..

http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/5492175-74/center-art-collection#axzz2ryici5cs

>>Like Mosley, Joseph Wos, executive director of ToonSeum, had high hopes for the center.

The small cartoon museum — one of three in the United States devoted to cartoon art — opened across Liberty Avenue from the center a few weeks after the center’s grand opening.

Wos said ToonSeum put an exhibition on extended loan to the center in 2010. In a letter to Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Wos said the exhibition on loan celebrated a long-forgotten civil rights comic and “featured a timeline of the civil rights movement and the comic, along with large-scale reproductions of the entire comic.”

The center exhibited the collection in 2011 but did not return it, Wos said. Now, he is concerned that the collection, which he valued at $3,000 to $3,500, might be sold.

“There was no paperwork related to this, though that was the understanding,” Wos told Kane.


11 posted on 01/31/2014 6:01:46 AM PST by raccoonradio
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To: raccoonradio

This was a disaster from concept on, Pittsburgh has tons of places to perform theater, in fact the downtown area has been completely revitalized by a multi-decade effort to create and encourage a theater district downtown.

That has all been successful, but this thing was just a turd from the get go... the issue is simply this, like it or not, african americans don’t in Pittsburgh at least, go to the theater, PERIOD. Go walk Penn Avenue any friday or saturday night and you will find it bustling with theater goers, and symphony goers, and artsy fartsy types doing gallery crawls, and you will also notice that African Americans by and large aren’t among the crowds.

Pittsburgh is still a very segregated city not by law, but by socioeconomy, most of the African American community are not in the middle or upper classes. They work in the service industry and hourly wage jobs overwhelmingly. There was no need for another theater or performing arts center beyond those that the city already had, and there was never financial support among the african american community to have one dedicated primarily for that purpose.

The only reason I think this thing got built in the first place was no one wanted to be labeled a racist by pointing out it wouldn’t work.


12 posted on 01/31/2014 6:01:46 AM PST by HamiltonJay
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To: raccoonradio

I am not against a valid reason to have some venue to celebrate the works of a black anyone. For instance, I’d like to visit a place like that to see all the wonderful things that George Washington Carver did. Likewise for Louis Armstrong and the like.

But to promote a nobody (as far as I know) playwright simply because he was black isn’t something I care about. If he was somebody to care about, I believe I would have recognized him in some way or another. Even if by most standards I should have known, I really don’t care. To me, there is no ‘there’ there.


13 posted on 01/31/2014 6:03:02 AM PST by Gaffer
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To: Gay State Conservative

And Wilson had one black parent and one white parent.


14 posted on 01/31/2014 6:03:07 AM PST by raccoonradio
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To: Night Hides Not

“Hasn’t he called P Diddy, Kanye, Jay-Z, or Beyonce?”

That is actually a good idea, I’m sure they could all use some charitable deductions on their income tax.


15 posted on 01/31/2014 6:04:15 AM PST by jocon307
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To: HamiltonJay

I go to a big cartoon convention every year in the ‘burgh and love the city. Yes there is a big cultural district with places like the Benedum (a blues band I know recorded a live album there), Heinz Hall etc

>>There was no need for another theater or performing arts center beyond those that the city already had, and there was never financial support among the african american community to have one dedicated primarily for that purpose.


16 posted on 01/31/2014 6:05:08 AM PST by raccoonradio
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To: raccoonradio

They took up a collection at the Kawanza celebration and netted $103


17 posted on 01/31/2014 6:05:41 AM PST by bert ((K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... History is a process, not an event)
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To: raccoonradio

I chalk this up to the simple fact that there are way too many specialized museums out there that focus on subjects that no one gives a s__t about. In some cases, its a shame. Symphonies are losing money left and right and having to scale down. Symphony Halls are shutting down. And these type of “art” museums are notorious for NOT attracting visitors.

Most remotely modern “art” and “literature” is crap and does not connect with the average person. So why should they come to this Wilson Center? Building this was a feel-good PC project — a museum dedicated to an African American — that ultimately no one cares about.


18 posted on 01/31/2014 6:07:14 AM PST by Opinionated Blowhard ("When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.")
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To: raccoonradio

It looks like they should be serving eggs & waffles inside.

Seriously though, this country has way too many museum that honor trivial crap.


19 posted on 01/31/2014 6:07:30 AM PST by SampleMan (Feral Humans are the refuse of socialism.)
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To: raccoonradio
They need to tap a few more White liberals who are suffering from White guilt. They should also try to shame the back into tearing up the mortgage. After all, its racist to hold Black folk financially accountable for their actions.
20 posted on 01/31/2014 6:08:36 AM PST by Cowboy Bob (They are called "Liberals" because the word "parasite" was already taken.)
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To: 3catsanadog; agrace; airborne; Ayn Rand wannabe; bdeaner; Benrand; bloodmeridian; Bockscar; ...
It's a 'Burgh
>> PING <<
Thing.™
Click for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Forecast
Send FReepmail if yunz want on/off BPT list, 'n'at
Learn Pittsburghese!
The List of Ping Lists

Not to be confused with "The Great American Hammer Museum."

21 posted on 01/31/2014 6:11:40 AM PST by martin_fierro (< |:)~)
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To: raccoonradio
“You can’t build it and they will come,” Mr. Southers said. “Not when you’re trying to work with a community that is not traditional theatergoers or cultural consumers.”

That right there is racist!

22 posted on 01/31/2014 6:13:27 AM PST by Graybeard58 (_.. ._. .. _. _._ __ ___ ._. . ___ ..._ ._ ._.. _ .. _. .)
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To: raccoonradio

Come to think of it, so is your screen name.


23 posted on 01/31/2014 6:14:16 AM PST by Graybeard58 (_.. ._. .. _. _._ __ ___ ._. . ___ ..._ ._ ._.. _ .. _. .)
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To: E. Pluribus Unum
Yep, just like some sort of Slave Museum in Virginia. Doug Wilder was involved with that.

Two decades later, donors wondering what happened to plans for slavery museum

They were bamboozled*. *Take that Spike Lee.

24 posted on 01/31/2014 6:15:22 AM PST by csvset
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To: Night Hides Not
I've certainly never heard of the guy, does that make me a racist? lol

Depends.

Are you white and/or conservative?

25 posted on 01/31/2014 6:16:44 AM PST by Graybeard58 (_.. ._. .. _. _._ __ ___ ._. . ___ ..._ ._ ._.. _ .. _. .)
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To: raccoonradio

To salvage this idiotic building, they should construct a big red sickle behind it and give it to Rich Fitzgerald for a new Agony County headquarters.


26 posted on 01/31/2014 6:18:45 AM PST by RS_Rider (I hate Illinois Nazis)
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To: raccoonradio

You mean that Oprah, JayZ, Spike Lee, Belefonte, Sharpton, Jackson, Freeman and the Obamas won’t save it? They don’t want to share the wealth?


27 posted on 01/31/2014 6:19:19 AM PST by Irenic (The pencil sharpener and Elmer's glue is put away-- we've lost the red wheelbarrow)
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To: Night Hides Not

“You can’t build it and they will come,” Mr. Southers said. “Not when you’re trying to work with a community that is not traditional theatergoers or cultural consumers.”

Hasn’t he called P Diddy, Kanye, Jay-Z, or Beyonce?


Or Oprah Winbag...


28 posted on 01/31/2014 6:19:30 AM PST by AFret. ("Charlie don't surf ! ")
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To: raccoonradio

Black people have never supported Wilson’s plays. I’ve seen them all and the audience is always white with the exception of one or two people.

Now, part of the problem is that Mr. Wilson did not acknowledge Christianity as one of the savior’s of black people in the US. That got up the nose of one black theatrical friend that I have. He hated Wilson’s harping on African paganism that appears throughout the plays.

The other, I think, is that his plays were simply too difficult for the average theater goer. But then I never saw black audiences at black musicals, either.

Black people attend “black” theater - a semi-amateur tradition in which plays revolve around problems within the black community. No white person ever appears and they are never the focus of the problems. I actually have enjoyed the one or two that I’ve seen.


29 posted on 01/31/2014 6:20:11 AM PST by miss marmelstein (Richard Lives Yet!)
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To: raccoonradio

I always wondered if Wilson was white. I met him once - nice man! - and he looked completely Caucasian.


30 posted on 01/31/2014 6:21:53 AM PST by miss marmelstein (Richard Lives Yet!)
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To: HamiltonJay
This was a disaster from concept on,

yes--this happened in a small city in the California Central Valley that i lived in for 12 years... there was an old abandoned theater down town... this man bought it... the city decided they wanted it and took it via eminent domain... they wanted to build a Theatre/Cultural Center... so they did... and nobody came... there was no market for it... and it is true that just because you build it, that does not mean that he/they will come...

this is how it is with people with no mind for business... look at Obamacare... they built it... nobody wants it enough to pay for it... you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink...

31 posted on 01/31/2014 6:28:46 AM PST by latina4dubya (when i have money i buy books... if i have anything left, i buy 6-inch heels and a bottle of wine...)
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To: Gaffer

Well there is a George Washington Carver National Park.

http://www.nps.gov/gwca/index.htm


32 posted on 01/31/2014 6:29:00 AM PST by PeterPrinciple
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To: Graybeard58

Ha, well we’re talking about the animal of course :)


33 posted on 01/31/2014 6:29:53 AM PST by raccoonradio
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To: miss marmelstein

34 posted on 01/31/2014 6:31:19 AM PST by raccoonradio
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To: PeterPrinciple

Although I don’t think I’ll ever get to Missouri, I appreciate the link.


35 posted on 01/31/2014 6:33:00 AM PST by Gaffer
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To: Gaffer

After reviewing what is available on Carver, most are politically correct and not work visiting.

He is one of the few people in history I would have like to have met. Don’t give a damn about the color of his skin.


36 posted on 01/31/2014 6:36:08 AM PST by PeterPrinciple
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To: raccoonradio
Hot l Baltimore

WOW...what a blast from the past. It was so short lived, and I was 13 when it aired. Lasted like half a season...barely remember it.

37 posted on 01/31/2014 6:36:52 AM PST by Ouderkirk (To the left, everything must evidence that this or that strand of leftist theory is true)
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To: HamiltonJay

The Andy Warhol museum would go nicely in that building. The homosexual commercial artist moved to NYC early in his career but that may be a fundraising plus.


38 posted on 01/31/2014 6:39:39 AM PST by Reeses
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To: raccoonradio

All it needs is the sickle, and you have what it really stands for.


39 posted on 01/31/2014 6:41:40 AM PST by Ouderkirk (To the left, everything must evidence that this or that strand of leftist theory is true)
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To: latina4dubya

There is a market for theater in Pittsburgh, but the problem is, there isn’t a consistent market for high dollar African American theater.... We have a multitude of performing arts options within downtown and throughout the city.

They eminent domained an entire city block and tore everything down to build this thing, and it never ever had a chance of being successful.

The article blames mismanagement, and I don’t doubt it was likely managed poorly as well, but I don’t think best management in the city could have made this thing financially feasible.

This was one of those ideas that I really think no one wanted to say no to it for fear of looking racist, when in fact it was a piss poor plan from the get go. This thing didn’t fail from lack of people wanting it to work, it just was a poor concept and apparently even more poorly executed.

As to the NYT portraying downtown pittsburgh as anti-black, they are idiots who know nothing about the city, Downtown is not a place that intimindates African Americans at all, that is nothing more than the NYT playing race cards where none exist and looking down its nose at Pittsburgh. Anyone who would write something like that, has never spent 5 minutes downtown.


40 posted on 01/31/2014 6:43:45 AM PST by HamiltonJay
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To: Reeses

I don’t know if Warhol could fill that building, the space they have currently is much smaller I believe, and frankly you can tell they struggle to fill it with anything meaningful... I have no doubt the could just put more crap up to fill the space, but I don’t think it would make it any more relevant.


41 posted on 01/31/2014 6:45:52 AM PST by HamiltonJay
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To: Gaffer

Years ago, I saw one of his plays in New York. “The 5th of July”. It was a chance to see a play and I really did not know who wrote it or what the topic was. To me the play made no sense at all. Almost ruined my visit..


42 posted on 01/31/2014 6:47:41 AM PST by BatGuano (You don't think I'd go into combat with loose change in my pocket, do ya?)
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To: HamiltonJay
There is a market for theater in Pittsburgh, but the problem is, there isn’t a consistent market for high dollar African American theater.... We have a multitude of performing arts options within downtown and throughout the city.

and that, i believe, was the case for the Central Valley city i lived in... there were not enough people interested in a downtown theatre when they have access to many theatres in nearby big cities... which is where a lot of the townspeople were from to begin with...

43 posted on 01/31/2014 6:49:46 AM PST by latina4dubya (when i have money i buy books... if i have anything left, i buy 6-inch heels and a bottle of wine...)
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To: Gaffer

Oops...wife just said that it was another “Wilson”, not August. Never mind.


44 posted on 01/31/2014 6:50:53 AM PST by BatGuano (You don't think I'd go into combat with loose change in my pocket, do ya?)
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To: BatGuano

That’s Lanford Wilson, not August. Sheesh.


45 posted on 01/31/2014 6:54:59 AM PST by miss marmelstein (Richard Lives Yet!)
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To: Ouderkirk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXh-gsZmuuo

“You cheat! Because you are black!”
“What did you say?”
“You’re black! I’m red! You moved the wrong checker!”

I remember one line where an old man talks about a sexy girl. “She’s got great pins. I could bowl 300 in that alley!”


46 posted on 01/31/2014 6:55:49 AM PST by raccoonradio
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To: Night Hides Not

He was a black play writer who hated white people and blamed honkeys for everything.
He is acclaimed here as a great asset to the city. But, seeing how little that place is used, not that great.


47 posted on 01/31/2014 7:00:05 AM PST by Yorlik803 ( Church/Caboose in 2016)
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To: Yorlik803
He was a black play writer who hated white people and blamed honkeys for everything.

Although not a playwright, there's at least one politician in Dallas who fits that description: John Wiley Price.

48 posted on 01/31/2014 7:03:46 AM PST by Night Hides Not (For every Ted Cruz we send to DC, I can endure 2-3 "unviable" candidates that beat incumbents.)
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To: raccoonradio

African American Culture

Oxymoron?

(ducking for cover)


49 posted on 01/31/2014 7:05:17 AM PST by dfwgator
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To: raccoonradio

“Show him what he did to the rest of your body”!

Remember that?


50 posted on 01/31/2014 7:07:53 AM PST by mozarky2 (Ya never stand so tall as when ya stoop to stomp a statist...)
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