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August Wilson House officially opens in Pittsburgh's Hill District | Arts + Entertainment | Pittsburgh

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Crowd of people watching a woman and a man standing on the steps of a red brick building

CP Photo: Donte Washington

August Wilson’s wife Costanza Romero Wilson and Denzel Washington address the audience at the August Wilson House opening on Saturday, August 13, 2022.

The August Wilson House officially opened over the weekend as more than 500 residents, celebrities, officials and local Black leaders gathered in Pittsburgh’s Hill District for a tearful and moving ceremony.

The childhood home of Hill District native August Wilson, one of history’s greatest playwrights, has been unveiled as a new community arts center with the goal of connecting black artists across the city. rice field.

“I want to thank the community because he’s yours and you’re his,” award-winning actor Denzel Washington said after attending the building’s Community Ground Blessing in 2018. I’m back in Pittsburgh for an event.

Washington, who directed and starred in the 2016 film shot in Pittsburgh fenceBased on Wilson’s play.

In an event similar to the Emmys, guests walked the red carpet to August Wilson’s former home at the ceremony on August 13 to meet photographers and artwork from local artists honoring the playwright.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey said at the event, “There is no child in this city who does not know the name of August Wilson.” “This speaks to how close we are to recognizing African-American history in this city and celebrating the heroes who came before us.”

Wilson is best known for his ten-part drama series. american century cyclewhich often showed what life looked like for black Americans in the 20th century. When Wilson died in 2005, Wilson’s nephew, Paul Ellis Jr., wanted to continue his legacy. .

“People actually said my vision was too big,” said Ellis, a longtime Hill District resident, attorney, and founder of the August Wilson House. , despite doubts raised by donors, Ellis continued with the project anyway.

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August Wilson House officially opens in Pittsburgh's Hill District

CP Photo: Donte Washington

August Wilson’s House in Pittsburgh’s Hill District

“As Nelson Mandela said, ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done,'” Ellis told onlookers.

Believing Wilson to be more of a father figure than an uncle, Ellis enlisted the support of celebrities, residents and foundations in Pittsburgh and across the country to provide financial and moral support for the restoration of the August Wilson House. provided.

All eyes were on every speaker, emotion and tears were seen and heard in every voice during the ceremony.

Michelle Gainey, wife of Mayor Gainey, said, “Everything August Wilson said when he said, ‘Claim yours,’ and that’s what this center stands for.” But it is important that children have the opportunity to come here and work and claim their own.”

Latasha Mays, a local reproductive activist and Democratic candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, added: It’s about generations of Black people, families, and leaders. I think the August Wilson House will be a reflection of that. ”

During the event, Lovell surprised Ellis with a declaration from the city of Pittsburgh, proclaiming August 13th. It will be Paul Ellis Day.

“Everyone in this country should know who August Wilson is,” said Lovell. “I ask Paul to meet me at the scene. Paul has seen me here for 10 years. I wanted to send you flowers.”

Charlene Foggy Burnett is a lifelong resident of the Hill District and a current member of the August Wilson House board of directors. I was proud to hear that I could do it.

“People have to understand that the Hill is not what they see on the 7:30 am news. “We have to change that narrative. We do that only by supporting projects like this and reminding people of what the Hill District used to be and what it will be again. can do.”

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August Wilson House officially opens in Pittsburgh's Hill District

CP Photo: Donte Washington

JJ Winder-Wilkins being an August Wilson fan at the grand opening of the August Wilson House

The event was also attended by many Wilson fans, including New York native JJ Winder-Wilkins.

ride together It was the first play I read in high school,” says Wilkins. “It’s great to hear speakers talk about what the Hill District used to be like and how the city allowed it to fall apart and return to its current community.”

Ellis says the center will support aspiring artists who are following in their uncle’s footsteps.

“My uncle gave a speech at Morehouse College in 1996. He said if you don’t want to be spoken to, speak. “It’s expected to knock it out of the park,” Ellis said. The goal is to create a pipeline, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”