Pittsburgh's August Wilson Center still fighting fiscal issues
Even people who want to give money to the financially troubled August Wilson Center for African American Culture have had a hard time doing so.
The center, named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright from Pittsburgh, advertised a phone number to prospective renters of its facility that did not transfer to the appropriate staff, said the center's court-appointed conservator, retired bankruptcy judge Judith K. Fitzgerald.
Calls were not returned. Disappointed people took their business elsewhere.
“Since I've been made a conservator, I've been made aware of this problem, and now we got it fixed,” Fitzgerald said on Thursday.
The phone number to nowhere was just one of the center's problems. Cost overruns and insufficient fundraising saddled the center with insurmountable debt when it opened on Liberty Avenue, Downtown, in 2009.
The debt was so overwhelming that Dollar Bank, to which the center owes more than $7 million, sought to foreclose on it for failing to pay its mortgage and insurance.
Fitzgerald's job is get the center back on solid footing. A number of Martin Luther King Jr. Day events are scheduled for Monday. She plans to update her progress to the court on Tuesday and ask for an extension of her conservatorship, set to expire Feb. 3. She declined to provide details but continues to meet with potential supporters.
David Donahoe, executive director of the Allegheny Regional Asset District, a longtime funder of the center, said Fitzgerald met with him and RAD board Chairman Daniel J. Griffin in December. He said she asked RAD for $225,000, the portion of its $300,000 grant for 2013 that the center has not received.
Donahoe said Griffin told her that RAD would consider her request if some foundations release grant money they've withheld. The center's 2014 grant, also $300,000, remains in a contingency fund.
In the meantime, there is life at the Wilson center. In addition to the King holiday events, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has booked “3x3,” three ballets by three choreographers, at the center for March 7-9 and 13-16. The ballet will pay about $20,000 in rent, said Harris N. Ferris, executive director of the ballet.
“Obviously, we feel bad for their difficulties and we're hopeful they'll be worked out,” Ferris said. “We're looking forward to the time when they can do longer-term planning.”
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust booked the center for First Night on New Year's Eve and scheduled two other events: the Performing Arts Showcase for Youth, Jan. 22-25; and the Children's Festival, May 14-18.
“The facility is fitting for the programs that we have, and so we'll always try to do what's best for the presentation of the art,” said Shaunda Miles, spokeswoman for the trust.
The center has hosted King holiday events in the past, but Fitzgerald ran into some trouble scheduling this year's. Initially billed as a fundraiser, the events will be free with donations accepted.
“I couldn't put it together as a fundraiser in the short time we had,” she said.
Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Kennywood Park opening day ends early because of disruptive crowd
- Marathon takes over streets of Pittsburgh
- High-end housing focus alienates needy
- Scaife bestows ‘game-changing’ legacy of giving to region, nation
- Fire in Wilkins high rise apartment building causes evacuation of hundreds
- Pittsburgh man charged with aggravated assault of girlfriend’s daughter
- Schenley Plaza rally underscores that ‘black lives matter’
- 2 charged with open lewdness for allegedly having sex on Pittsburgh-bound train
- Pittsburgh police make arrests in suspected Station Square prostitution ring
- West Virginia identifies faulty storage tanks as law scaled back
- McConway & Torley steel foundry under fire in trendy Lawrenceville