August Wilson Center CEO to step down
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Andre Kimo Stone Guess will exit the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in the coming months, but the CEO is leaving the 2-year-old center as it takes positive steps toward the future.
Chief among those, said Aaron Walton, chairman of the board of the center, is closing last week on a mortgage that has been refinanced to $7 million over four years from $11.2 million, thanks to the R.K Mellon and Kresge foundations, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Dollar Bank.
Mr. Guess' contract was up June 30, but it has been extended through September to enable a search for his successor. The CEO plans to return to work alongside his wife, Cheryl Peterson Guess, in the artistic management and consulting firm GuessWorks.
"He's done a marvelous job. What was really important was we were able to close on the mortgage, which was critical, because you can't fundraise until you have all the pieces in place," Mr. Walton said.
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. Under his guidance, the August Wilson Center named artistic directors in dance (Greer Reed-Jones), music (Sean Jones), visual arts and exhibitions (Cecile Shellman) and theater (Mark Clayton Southers) to boost the center as a presenter "of a world-class program that everyone could be proud of. I'd like to think that the producing model we put in place with resident companies allowed Pittsburgh to see itself so that we could be local, national and international all in the same breath," Mr. Guess said Friday.
The companies include the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra and August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, which was named one of the top 25 ensembles to watch in the country by Dance Magazine this year.
That was one of the three points that were "mental sticky notes I put in the back of my head that I wanted to accomplish in terms of my leadership for two years," Mr. Guess said. The others were to at least chip away at the debt and make the community feel at home in the center.
The Louisville, Ky., native added that he is looking forward to traveling with his wife and clients .
First Published June 9, 2012 12:00 am