August Wilson Center for African American Culture needs to play ball
Less culture, more sports emphasis.
That's the answer to the question of what ails the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.
The Downtown facility recently laid off half its staff and is behind on payments on a $7 million loan. Foundations that have been the center's lifeblood are skittish about providing more money because the center hasn't completed a required audit or submitted a recent business plan.
Named for the famous playwright and Hill District native, the center has had a miserable operation since opening in 2009. There's less foot traffic around it than when businesses on that block of Liberty Avenue included a dive bar, strip joint and adult bookstore.
People don't seem to realize it's there.
The center's future appears bleak unless it can begin attracting visitors. In this town, the way to increase awareness about anything is to add sports components. That's why I believe these changes could increase the center's chances of survival:
• Out: The center's core exhibition, Pittsburgh: Reclaim, Renew, Remix
Sure, this impressive multimedia display allows visitors to create a unique visual collage of the region's history. But have you seen it? Didn't think so.
In: A new core exhibition: Pittsburgh: Those Super Bowl-winning Steelers
Add a multimedia display that allows visitors to relive the team's championship seasons. Throw in audio of the late Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope, and you'll have to turn people away.
• Out: Reading roundtables
Who ever thought people would flock to the center to hear local actors read the works of Wilson and “up-and-coming playwrights,” more commonly referred to as “maitre d's”? No one is clamoring to hear the works of unknowns, and Wilson's inventory isn't the draw it once was. Unfortunately, his 2005 death led to a prolonged creative lull — he hasn't completed a single play since.
In: Sports-talk radio remote broadcasts
Wilson won two Pulitzer Prizes but never claimed any of the prizes that Pittsburghers care most about: Super Bowls, Stanley Cups and World Series championships. Replace recitations of his plays with spirited sports discussions and traffic updates on the quarter-hour.
• Out: The August Wilson Center for African American Culture
Wilson's greatness as a playwright cannot be denied, but neither can the fact that his name isn't nearly the magnet that those who conceived the center thought it would be. What's needed is a moniker that would generate instant excitement, even if it causes confusion regarding the center's primary purpose.
In: The Mario Lemieux Center for African American Culture and Hockey Memorabilia
The place doesn't have to be flooded with replicas of jerseys that the revered Penguins' co-owner wore during his playing days. Adding the Lemieux name simply guarantees consistent foot traffic.
A Penguins gift shop directly inside the entrance wouldn't hurt.
Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7857 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.
- Hospital finances still crying ‘ouch’
- Rossi: Brawl for ADs between Pitt and WVU
- No tax increase for Everson next year
- Cezanne likely to attract bidders
- Fleury’s career-best 6th shutout lifts Penguins over Avalanche in overtime
- Steelers must be creative in providing snaps for linebackers
- Trained teachers, staff to treat allergic students under Pennsylvania law
- Normalville church performs Christmas play
- Time is of essence for Pitt in finding football coach, athletic director
- West Newton foster father faces child sex charges
- $500K grant to fund bike sharing comes through for Pittsburgh