August Wilson Center outlines path to financial stability
By Tony LaRussa
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 3:15 p.m.
The head of the August Wilson Center on Tuesday announced a plan that focuses on dealing with the most pressing problems the financially troubled arts and cultural institution has had since opening in 2009.
“Today, the Center begins a new chapter,” said Oliver Byrd in a three-page letter distributed to the media and other organizations that outlines his turnaround plan.
“Not unlike other arts organizations, and culturally specific ones in particular, the August Wilson Center has found the road to sustainability to be particularly difficult,” Byrd said.
Byrd has set a 10-point agenda to prioritize the issues that need to be addressed but did not provide details on how those goals would be accomplished.
Byrd and other center staff did not respond to messages seeking additional details.
A “critical-self examination” of the center determined that its “existing business model was not sufficient to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organization,” according to the letter.
Since opening in 2009, the center along Liberty Avenue, Downtown, has been plagued by a $7.1 million debt because it did not raise enough money to cover construction costs.
Bringing in revenue has been a problem. Last year, it lost $1.8 million, more than twice the amount it took in.
According to Byrd's letter, an audit of the center's 2011-12 finances will be released in the next several weeks.
The audit is necessary before the Allegheny County Regional Asset District can award the center any funding for 2014. It is asking for $425,000 in taxpayer assistance.
“The (RAD) board is going to want to know what the plan is going forward for stabilizing its finances,” said David Donahoe, RAD's executive director.
The audit was due to RAD in March. RAD supports parks, libraries, stadiums and cultural groups with half of the proceeds of an additional 1 percent sales tax in Allegheny County.
The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority is withholding more than $1.4 million of a $2 million loan for operating expenses until the center produces the audit, according to Gigi Saladna, a spokeswoman for the URA.
URA officials declined to comment on Byrd's recovery plan.
Byrd's letter lists five factors that have hurt the center:
• The inability to pay its long-term debts.
• Instability in senior management that has “slowed progress toward a clear vision, path and structure for the future.”
• A loss of confidence among donors due to a lack of financial oversight.
• Damage to its public image by “frequent and inaccurate reporting by particular media sources.”
• “Tarnished community and artist relations” resulting from understaffing and strain on personnel.
Byrd has proposed raising more revenue by increasing the number of private events booked at the center. Increasing the number of arts groups that use the facility would help raise revenue, he said.
Center officials are working on developing programs that “create a closer link between the August Wilson Center and the late August Wilson himself,” according to the letter, which could include creation of educational content for teachers and a national award for those who bring the famed Pittsburgh playwright's work “to life.”
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins center Malkin won’t play tonight vs. Sharks
- Kovacevic: Got proof on Tomlin? Let’s hear it
- Schmotzer resigns high-paid administrative job with Baldwin-Whitehall
- Ex-Steeler WR Wallace: It was a ‘challenge’ for Haley to use me
- Ex-Penguins winger Kennedy ‘emotional’ about return
- Businessman stole $3 million to keep his company going, lawyer says
- Dozens of workers strike outside Downtown fast-food locations
- Film about former Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis in prestigious festival
- Fights in gym at Perry Traditional Academy injure one student
- Mars co-owner, world’s seventh-richest woman, pleads guilty in fatal Va. crash
- Giant Eagle combines ‘best of both worlds’