The August Wilson Center’s future matters for us all

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Who needs the August Wilson Center? Well, I do, and if you care about sustaining American culture in all its many forms, you do, too.

As a young, black man in Pittsburgh, totally consumed by all things having to do with the arts, I found that there weren’t always a lot of cultural offerings that reflected me. It was a rare treat to see a play by a black writer or dance by a black company.

So imagine my excitement upon learning that a center for African-American culture was being created Downtown — in the heart of the Cultural District, right alongside other arts organizations that Pittsburghers considered important.

I watched, enraptured, as this beautiful building took shape. Here was a place that would reflect my life experience and that of others like me. When the center finally opened, I was enthralled to see paintings and sculpture by some of the most celebrated black artists, plays both classic and new on the stage, and music reverberating throughout the soaring space — all of it with a perspective rarely found in other institutions.

Whatever the reasons that have led the August Wilson Center to this critical juncture, I am encouraged that there is a will within the Pittsburgh community to rebuild this institution. There are creative, visionary thinkers who are willing to devote the time and attention to see that the promise of the center is realized. It is a valuable part of our city’s cultural landscape.

We all need the August Wilson Center.

New York, N.Y.

The writer, a native of East Liberty, won the 2013 Tony Award for best performance by a leading actor in a musical.


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