Opinion: Let’s Keep the AW Center Alive

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Click image for the PG article.

By Mike Downing

According to Natasha Lindstrom of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will “begin taking rental bookings for events in mid-May and beyond” at the August Wilson Center.

The Center is now owned by the Pittsburgh Foundation, which is in the process of appointing a permanent governance board to oversee the center.

Heinz Endowment President Grant Oliphant and Richard King Mellon Foundation Director Scott Izzo are also involved.

This is a great development.  August Wilson’s legacy is too important to Pittsburgh to abandon it too readily.  Were mistakes made the first time around?  Absolutely.  Can those problems be fixed?  I remain hopeful.

The biggest issue is revenue stream.  The center needs to see itself as a business, not as a community center.  I believe that if the initial organizers had a fault, it was that they were too generous with the facility.

In addition, from day one the center was plagued with debt.  Now it has a chance to start debt-free.

I do believe it is unfortunate that Mr. King has said that he “does not anticipate appointing any members who were on the center’s previous leadership teams.”  With all due respect, I believe that having access to someone with deep background knowledge of the center, such as Sala Udin, would help to bring a cohesive vision to the center and would help prevent the new leadership from falling into previous traps.

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