The August Wilson Center for African American Culture opened its doors with a gala Welcome and Tribute Ceremony Thursday, unveiling the sleek new addition to the Downtown landscape with great pride. Close to 800 guests arrived in two waves to celebrate the occasion, which was as happy as it was historic. Actors Delroy Lindo and Anna Maria Horsford served as guest hosts for the evening, introducing board chair Oliver Byrd (with Karla), Capital Campaign co-chairs Bonnie and Tom Van Kirk and Karen Farmer White, Friends chair Elaine Effort and founding president Neil Barclay (back from Atlanta). Constanza Romero Wilson, the playwright's widow, spoke on behalf of the family and served as honorary chair for the evening with Milt and Nancy Washington. Interim president Marva Harris (with Eugene) graciously welcomed the many supporters who brought the project to fruition by helping to raise $34.5 million, close to the final goal of $41.5 million.
Towering baskets of exotic grasses and flowers from Toadflax warmed the vast spaces and helped create a festive atmosphere, as did the nonstop entertainment throughout the center and in the theater, where the Harlem Quartet, Billy Porter, the August Wilson World Chorus, Sean Jones and the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra performed. Late-night dancing to DJ Nate the Phat Barber followed a soul food buffet dinner prepared by Shallot and All in Good Taste. Nancy Byrnes Events produced the benefit, which raised $350,000.
Just about everybody of prominence was there, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and County Executive Dan Onorato, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Kevin McMahon with Kristen, the Urban League's Esther Bush, Elsie Hillman, Ron and Judy Davenport, Thad Mosley, Jerry and Rhonda Lopes, Jimmy and Doris Carson Williams, Sala and Jackie Udin, Mulugetta and Elizabeth Birru, Stephen Davis, Caryn Rubinoff and Craig Dunham, Mona Generett, Tom and Jennifer Stevens, Phyllis Moreman Goode, the Rev. Harold and Claudette Lewis, Ralph and Ruth Anne Papa, Rip Nixon, Mark Lewis, David and Susan Matter, Paul and Peggy Outon, Darrell Smalley, Valerie McDonald Roberts and many more.
First Published September 22, 2009 11:15 AM