August Wilson Center CEO Guess to step down


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Chief executive officer Andre Kimo Stone Guess will leave the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in the coming months.

Aaron Walton, chairman of the center's board, said Mr. Guess chose to leave as the two-year-old center takes positive steps toward its future.

The center closed last week on a mortgage that was $11.2 million and has been refinanced to $7 million, thanks to the R.K Mellon and Kresge foundations, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Dollar Bank, Mr. Walton said.

Mr. Guess' contract was up June 30, but it has been extended through September to enable a search for his successor. The CEO wishes to return to his family and consulting firm in Kentucky.

"He's done a marvelous job," Mr. Walton said. "What was really important was we were able to close on the mortgage, which was critical, because you can't fund-raise until you have all the pieces in place. The production capacity is strong and the programming is there now, so when you go out to raise money, you have to have something to sell. I think he's put us in a great position to go into a campaign early in 2013 to pay off that mortgage within the time we've been given to pay it off."

The $40 million center opened in 2009, and Mr. Guess, 45, joined in April of the following year after holding a leadership role in Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.

Neil Barclay was the center's first CEO and the driving force behind its development before leaving to run the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta.

To help boost the cultural center as a presenter, Mr. Guess brought in Mark Clayton Southers, founder and creative force behind the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, as artistic director, and took advantage of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's shared services program for purchasing, marketing and ticketing.

When he arrived, Mr. Guess said his vision was to make the August Wilson Center "the pre-eminent institution for African-American arts and culture in the world."

"What [Mr. Guess] has done is given us a jump start on our ability to do what we need to do as a board," Mr. Walton said. "We are extending his contract through Sept. 30 to work with us on completing our three-year plan and help us with transition and he'll be available if need be even after that to work with us. It's not that he's disappearing. He's moving on."

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Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960. First Published June 8, 2012 10:30 AM


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