$1M Donation from Richard King Mellon Foundation Helps August Wilson House
By Catherine Minnick
On Saturday, April 27, the August Wilson House and Pittsburgh Hill District held their fourth annual block party honoring August Wilson’s birthday. The block party was presented by Dollar Bank and sponsored by 17 local organizations and companies within the community.
Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the playwright and to enjoy the nice weather.
Jordan Snowden of Pittsburgh City Paper reported that there was a record number of attendees at the block party.
The celebrations closed Bedford Avenue from Manilla Street to Ledlie Street for over 115 vendors and food trucks. Live music and performances by various organizations in the community also participated.
To top off all the engaging events, a large donation was given to the August Wilson House. The Richard King Mellon Foundation, which has been preserving and protecting SouthWestern PA heritage since the 1940s, donated $1 million to help with the restoration of Wilson’s house, something that has been in the works for over a decade.
“We are deeply grateful to the Richard King Mellon Foundation for their support and their belief in our project and our vision,” said Wilson’s nephew, Paul Ellis Jr.
Ellis currently owns the August Wilson House and has also founded the nonprofit Daisy Wilson Artist Community, so named after Wilson’s mother. The Daisy Wilson Artist Community was founded to begin efforts to preserve the playwright’s home and the large donation will help realize that goal.
One of Wilson’s desires while still living was that he wanted to contribute back to the community. He wanted his home to help others.
“He wanted it to be useful to people,” said Rob Pfaffmann, an architect who owns the firm Pfaffmann + Associates.
He and his company have drawn up the blueprints for renovations of the house. The donation is a step towards preserving the August Wilson House and keeping the spirit and life-goals of Wilson still strong.
Also at the block party, a children’s area was in front of Wilson’s childhood home that had events like face painting, an ice cream truck, and a foam party from Radioactive Events Center Inc. Children and adults played around in the foam with it reaching two feet high in some spots.
Studio Capezzuti of Pittsburgh was present with a dozen life-size puppets that visitors could interact and dance with. The mobile glass blowing hot wheels of Pittsburgh Glass Center also held live demos of the craft while at the block party.
The block party ran from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Dollar Bank Main Stage, located in the middle of the closed block, held hourly contests and a lip sync battle. Kiki Brown, from radio station WAMO, won the battle and the trophy belt with her performance of the song “Diva” by Beyoncé.
Other performances at the Dollar Bank stage included Baby JWay, Brothamans, DJ Selecta, Friendz of Funk, L.O.S., Ibeji Drum Ensemble, Gallo Locknez, Kanti Kasa, One Harmony, Rudolph Strothers, Nia Dance Ensemble, and Sheila Beasley. Roland Ford, a well known soul line dancer and instructor, was also present for the celebrations