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August Wilson Center celebrates its 10th anniversary with some exciting changes | TribLIVE.com
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August Wilson Center celebrates its 10th anniversary with some exciting changes

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop

August Wilson Cultural Center

The August Wilson Center has a star-studded gala and a new name planned for its 10th anniversary celebration in April.

The party and name change to the August Wilson Cultural Center were announced at a news conference Monday.

After a tumultuous first decade where the Downtown Pittsburgh center nearly faced foreclosure, the August Wilson Cultural Center has rebranded itself with a new mission, an inspiring vision and ambitious programming.

“The center’s mission is to own and operate a home for the arts, storytelling, learning and exchange around the African American experience and the rich culture of the African diaspora,” said Janis Burley Wilson, president and CEO of the August Wilson Cultural Center. “We are guided by the enduring truths and essential values evident in the work of August Wilson.”

The April 26 gala, “Take Center Stage,” will feature Constanza Romero Wilson, award-winning costume designer and wife of August Wilson, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tony Award-winning Wilsonian actor and director, as artistic co-chairs. Phylicia Rashad, Tony-Award winning actress, singer, and stage director, will also serve as honorary artistic co-chair. Dr. Nancy D. Washington will serves as gala legacy chair.

The event will welcome approximately 500 regional arts patrons, philanthropists, African American leaders and influencers and the corporate community. It will feature entertainment, cocktails, a seated dinner and an inspiring program, including a dance performance by Kyle Abraham, Pittsburgh native and MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellow, and a theatrical excerpt by Santiago-Hudson from his play “Lackawanna Blues,” accompanied by guitarist Chris Thomas King.

“It’s happening,” Burley Wilson said. “We’ve been talking about it, but now it’s really happening. We are solid, and we ended the year with a surplus. The stage is set. We have made many capital improvements, and we want people to know the good news about the August Wilson Cultural Center.”

There will also be an encore party, including an ensemble performance by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra followed by a dessert buffet.

Other events include:

Through March 24: “Familiar Boundaries: Infinite Possibilities”

This is a group exhibition of 12 regional, national and international contemporary artists, curated by Kilolo Luckett. Highlights include the U.S. debut of “Flying Girls” by Peju Alatise and a discussion between Martha Jackson Jarvis and famed Carnegie International artist Thaddeus Mosley. Several other artist talks will happen throughout the month. The exhibition culminates with a panel discussion with the artists and curator on March 16.

Feb. 16: A talk with news reporter, anchor, poet, writer, founding member of the Last Poets and the Young Lords, Felipe Luciano.

Feb. 17: The jazz, soul and gospel-inflected voice of Gregory Porter takes the stage.

Feb. 20-21: “Tubman” is the last installation of this season’s Hi-Arts Residency when the center presents this one-woman play about Harriet Tubman.

Feb. 15-24: The third annual Black Bottom Film Festival – featuring classic films as well as new movies – celebrating African American cinema, is expanding its footprint in a unique collaboration with Row House Cinema. Some film highlights include the 40th anniversary of Sidney Lumet’s “The Wiz” starring Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Nipsy Russell; “Pas Honteux,” written by Marcus J. Guillory and directed in the style of French New Wave popular in the 1960’s; and “Horror Noire: The History of Black Horror,” directed by Xavier Burgin and executive produced by Dr. Robin Means Coleman.

March 1: The TRUTHsayers speaker series with Karamo Brown, host and culture expert of the Netflix reboot of “Queer Eye.”

March 1: Concert by Butcher Brown in the intimate series Wall of Sound.

March 9-10: Camille Brown returns to Pittsburgh in collaboration with the Pittsburgh Dance Council.

March 14-24: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and the Dance Theater of Harlem will reunite for a mixed-repertory production.

April 19: To celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month, Grammy-nominated vocalist Jazzmeia Horn performs.

Late April: The visual arts exhibition “Race and Revolution: Still Separate-Still Unequal,” curated by Katie Fuller and Larry Ossei-Mensah, opens.

May 10-11: Smoothfest returns featuring rhythm and blues legends Phil Perry and Eddie Levert.

June 21-23: The Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival in its ninth year showcases up-and-coming artists like Makaya McCraven as well as legendary artists like WAR, Stanley Clarke, and more.

Details: aacc-awc.org

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, jharrop@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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