AUGUST WILSON AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURAL CENTER OPENS AUGUST WILSON: THE WRITER’S LANDSCAPE SATURDAY, APRIL 16 FIRST-EVER PERMANENT EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO LIFE OF PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT
3,600-Square-Foot Exhibit Features Artifacts and Collections that Reveal the People and Places that had a Profound Impact on Wilson’s Body of Work
February 24, 2022 – Pittsburgh, PA – The August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC) announced today that August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape, the first-ever permanent exhibition dedicated to the life and works of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, officially opens on Saturday, April 16. The 3,600-square-foot gallery space features interactive, multi-sensory exhibits, artifacts from Wilson’s Estate, and recreations of ephemera from the 1900s to early 2000s that provides historical context about his writings, augmented by audio recordings of Wilson’s acclaimed work performed by award-winning actors including Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Phylicia Rashad, Keith David, and Stephen McKinley Henderson, creating a portal through Wilson’s life and his body of work, showcasing elements that invite patrons to address the issues of race, representation, family, and community. AWAACC, in collaboration with Constanza Romero-Wilson, Wilson’s widow, Executive Director of the August Wilson Legacy LLC, and Chief Curator to the exhibit, have partnered together to create August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape.
August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape builds on AWAACC’s mission as one of the largest non-profit cultural organizations in the country focused exclusively on the African American experience and the arts of the African diaspora to offer programs and resources that advance Wilson’s legacy and reflect the universal issues of identity that the playwright tackled, celebrate Black culture, and inspire future innovators in arts and culture. Access to the exhibition will be free of charge for all visitors in perpetuity. Registration for free timed tickets will be available starting on April 11, at https://aacc-awc.org/.
“It has long been a goal of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center to create a permanent exhibition that celebrates the life of August Wilson and the Pittsburgh community that inspired him. Constanza Romero-Wilson, who has been an integral partner to this project, world-renowned museum design firm, Eisterhold Associates, Inc., scholar-in-residence, Dr. Sandra Shannon and the unyielding support of the Hillman Foundation, Henry L. Hillman Foundation, BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and the Allegheny Regional Asset District has enabled us to bring our vision for August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape to life, and I’m thrilled to officially open to the public,” said Janis Burley Wilson, President and CEO of August Wilson African American Cultural Center. “Having additional time to design and construct the experience has allowed us to reimagine ways in which all who come to the Center can immerse themselves in Wilson’s work, amplifying his legacy even further and inspiring generations from around the world for years to come.”
“August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape beautifully illuminates August Wilson’s life and work, and I’m thrilled that through my work with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, our vision for this permanent exhibition has been brought to fruition,” said Constanza Romero-Wilson, Executive Director of the August Wilson Legacy, LLC. “Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District and its people had a profound impact on my late husband’s writing, and the universality of his characters who call for racial justice continues to speak to audiences around the world today. I’m deeply grateful that his cultural and artistic contributions will have a lasting home at the Center.”
In addition to partnering with Romero-Wilson, the Center is collaborating with Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Sandra Shannon, Professor of African American Literature at Howard University, the foremost scholar of Wilson’s work, and founder of the August Wilson Society, as well as longtime Wilson collaborator and Tony Award-winning scenic designers David Gallo and Viveca Gardiner. Leading design firm Eisterhold Associates, Inc., whose work includes the Rosa Parks Museum in Alabama, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Missouri, and the African American Museum in Philadelphia, designed and fabricated the exhibition with lead exhibit designer and project manager Victoria Edwards overseeing the project, with support from Display Dynamics, Inc., a full-service custom exhibit design company working in both the cultural and private sector and the only Black-owned company of its kind. Pittsburgh-based visual artist, photographer, and filmmaker Emmai Alaquiva, one of AWAACC’s inaugural B.U.I.L.D. artists-in-residence, has created an original soundscape for the exhibition, building upon the themes found in Wilson’s work and highlighted throughout the exhibition.
August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape Exhibition Highlights
Born and raised in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, August Wilson drew his greatest inspiration from the city and its people. Many of his works in The American Century Cycle, which almost exclusively take place in Pittsburgh and represent each decade of the twentieth century, were largely informed by Wilson’s observations of the environment that surrounded him. As conceived and written by Romero-Wilson, “the story” for the visitor’s experience unfolds in three acts:
- The Coffee Shop, inspired by a local coffee shop in the Hill District, where a young Wilson frequented and where he observes the day-to-day interactions of its diners. Later, this would provide the basis for many of his characters and the inspiration for his stories. Visitors will be able to sit at the diner’s lunch counter and immerse themselves in Wilson’s world, from the sounds of the diner to newspapers and magazines from the 1960s that Wilson himself may have read;
- The Office, a replica of Wilson’s home office showcasing his working environment and the items that he prized, including his own writing desk with projected interactive images that allow visitors to learn more about his creative process, along with music from his personal record collection and manuscripts of his work; and
- The Street, a symbolic walk through Wilson’s The American Century Cycle, featuring a gallery dedicated to each of Wilson’s 10 plays, utilizing video, props, and costumes from notable productions of his work, providing insights on the decades they are set in and the events that took place in Pittsburgh and across the nation in each particular decade.
Collection Highlights Donated by Romero-Wilson
- Wilson’s personal writing desk, one of his most prized possessions dating back to the 1920s and on which he at least partially wrote some of his masterpieces;
- Rock Ola 1448, a 1956 jukebox featured in the 1990 Broadway production of Two Trains Running;
- 1940s RCA Radio featured in the 1996 Broadway production of Seven Guitars;
- Gem of the Ocean prop masks featured in the Broadway production in 2004
The Center is also partnering with the University of Pittsburgh, which recently acquired Wilson’s archives from his estate. In addition to objects that the Center has already acquired from Wilson’s Estate for use in August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape, AWAACC will collaborate with the University of Pittsburgh and library archivists on cross-organization programming with the Center, expanding both organization’s materials to be used as an educational and community resource.
To enhance the exhibition beyond the four walls of the Center, AWAACC has partnered with TurnKey Education Inc. to develop tools for students and teachers to utilize before and after experiencing August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape. Ranging from an introduction to Wilson and his works and what inspired him as an artist, to helping students understand the history of Pittsburgh and the world events that informed his writings, resources are available at no cost to educators across the country. For additional information, please visit https://aacc-awc.org/.
Recently, AWAACC was designated as one of the 15 cultural institutions across the nation that will archive the professional audio recordings of The American Century Cycle, recorded in 2013 by New York Public Radio at the Greene Space and the August Wilson Estate in collaboration with the project’s artistic director Ruben Santiago-Hudson. These recordings will be utilized throughout August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape in addition to original recordings made for the exhibit, bringing Wilson’s words to life as visitors move through the exhibition in addition to being made available onsite to scholars, historians, and artists as an educational resource.
With major funding provided by the Hillman Foundation and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation to support the design, creation, and implementation of the exhibition and additional support from BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania for virtual programming and future upgrades, the exhibit has been re-envisioned to ensure all elements of the exhibition can be explored without the use of touch, including motion sensor activation and more. Generous support for August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape is also provided by Allegheny Regional Asset District.
Located in one of AWAACC’s three gallery spaces, in the heart of Pittsburgh’s cultural district, the permanent exhibition is designed and fabricated by Eisterhold Associates, Inc., a firm that specializes in the planning and design of museums and interpretive experiences for civic institutions and private organizations, whose work includes the Rosa Parks Museum in Alabama, the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Missouri, and the African American Museum in Pennsylvania. Display Dynamics, Inc., a full-service custom exhibit design company working in both the cultural and private sector and the only Black-owned company of its kind, is assisting with the fabrication. Display Dynamics, Inc. has worked on projects including the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in New Mexico and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force’s NASA CCT in Ohio.
To learn more about the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, its year-round activities, and August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape, please visit https://aacc-awc.org/.
# # #
ABOUT AUGUST WILSON AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURAL CENTER
The August Wilson African American Cultural Center is a non-profit cultural organization located in Pittsburgh’s cultural district that generates artistic, educational, and community initiatives that advance the legacy of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. One of the largest cultural centers in the country focused exclusively on the African American experience and the celebration of Black culture and the African diaspora, the non-profit organization welcomes more than 119,000 visitors locally and nationally. Through year-round programming across multiple genres, such as the annual Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival, Black Bottom Film Festival, AWCommunity Days, TRUTHSayers speaker series, and rotating art exhibits in its galleries, the Center provides a platform for established and emerging artists of color whose work reflects the universal issues of identity that Wilson tackled and which still resonate today.
# # #
August Wilson African American Cultural Center