Monday, December 8, 2014

PositivelyPittsburghLive, Preserving the Mission; August Wilson Center Safe in the Hands of Local Nonprofits.

Preserving the Mission; August Wilson Center 

 Safe in the Hands of Local Nonprofits.

By Megan Grabowski

A few short months ago, during sale negotiations of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, community leaders were considering transforming the site into a 10 story hotel.    Many city leaders and nonprofit partners opposed this idea, purporting a desire to maintain the Center’s primary
August Wilson Center, picture
mission; a platform for African American Arts and programming.  In early November, three leading area nonprofits acquired control, at least temporarily, over the restructuring of the Center.  Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King will serve as Chair of the interim authority, working alongside will be Heinz Endowments President and CEO Grant Oliphant and Director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Scott Izzo.   Under the control of temporary officials, community transparency, vital for Pittsburgh nonprofits and stakeholders, will be upheld until a permanent “Building Board” is established.  The Building Board will be responsible for preserving accountability while working with an assortment of groups.  

The first course of action for the temporary officers will be to obtain a long- term agreement with Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.  Based on the Trusts success in managing and developing the epicenter of arts and culture in Pittsburgh, a working relationship between the Building Board, a committed community advisory group and the Trust will help ensure the Center’s true mission is upheld while concurrently balancing a practical and appropriate operating budget.  Furthermore, immediate concerns to be addressed by the temporary management include evaluating the physical condition of the building, developing a comprehensive financial structure and resuming normal building operations.

Transitory leaders anticipate a 3- 6 month time frame before permanent governance is launched.  The Building Board will be comprised of 3-5 community members, predominantly African American authorities, in the area of nonprofit facilities management, business and finance.  Most important, the newly created stewards must have the Center’s original mission as priority number one; offering mostly, but not exclusively, distinguishable African American visual and performing arts for Pittsburghers and visitors from outside the region. 

You can read more about future plans for The August Wilson Center for African American Culture by clicking on the link here

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast

PositivelyPittsburghLive First Night Preview, How Will You Welcome the New Year?

Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2015; 

How will you welcome the New Year? 

By Megan Grabowski

Beauty Slap
As a Pittsburgher, newly transplanted or a longtime resident, you ought to consider purchasing a button for the 21st annual Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2015.  Many plans and preparations are well under way to make this year’s event a spectacular success. Today I was granted a sneak peek into several of the scheduled happenings. In anticipation of 40,000 visitors to the region’s largest single day celebration, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and 500 volunteers have organized 150 events in hope of producing the grandest First Night to date.  So, while New Yorkers gaze up at the dropping ball, in Pittsburgh we will gape in awe as our ball rises, 150 feet above Penn Avenue, representative of our city on the rise!  A truly family friendly event, alcohol free and a significant launch pad for many local artists, people of all ages will enjoy the myriad of visual arts, dance, theater, magic, comedy and music offered on New Year’s Eve throughout Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

Join First Night Attendees of all Ages

This year, ringing in 2015 at Highmark First Night Pittsburgh can be done at 50 various venues, including two new spaces, Trinity Cathedral and First Presbyterian Church as well as numerous sites in the Cultural District such as Wood Street Galleries, SPACE, 709 Gallery and the O’Reilly Theater.  Concerned about bringing the family outdoors in the cold?  This year 90% of the activities are planned for indoor areas offering visitors a much needed break from the late December weather.   If an alcohol free New Year’s Eve celebration doesn’t sound like your speed, take heed, Janis Burley Wilson, Vice President of Education and Community Engagement for Pittsburgh Cultural Trust reassures attendees, “I view Highmark First Night Pittsburgh as one of the most important evenings of the year…the Trust welcomes and entertains visitors of all ages, for a joyous celebration of the arts…”

First Night Fireworks at Midnight

Intrigued yet?  Perhaps you are wondering how to plan a single evening itinerary that includes 150 activity options spanning 14 city blocks?  Guests with youngsters can begin the night with a bang; children’s fireworks display on the Dollar Bank Stage with funky musical accompaniment provided by Beauty Slap.  Then head on over to the First National Bank Tent to participate in hands- on activities with organizations like Carnegie Science Center, CitiParks and beloved mascots Steely McBeam and Pirate Parrot.  At 8pm, march over to Penn Avenue for the magnificent sights and sounds of the FedEx Ground Parade.  With a theme titled “Imagination Delivered”, Grand Marshal Rick Sebak will lead a procession of towering puppets, marching bands and bicycles.  If you’re planning on bringing older children, you won’t want to miss the fifth annual Sing Off.  Following the premise of televisions The Voice, a selection of Pittsburgh’s own promising local talent defend their vocal aptitudes.  In honor of the upcoming Motown the Musical tour, celebrity judge Smokey Robinson, will help award one stunning student singer a $500.00 cash prize.

Swon Brothers from "The Voice"
Venturing into town without kids in tow?  An endless evening of laughter, mystique, art and dance wait.  Stop by Pierce Studio on Liberty Avenue, location of the Trust Arts Education Center for a smooth jazz lounge with chill jams by the Dwayne Dolphin Trio.  Visitors can take advantage of all of the Trust galleries, operating with extended hours, and create a personalized gallery crawl.  Prefer to keep warm and toasty indoors?  Check out the improvisation team at Arcade Comedy Theater.  If something more traditional appeals to you, enjoy the River City Brass Band on the Benedum stage as well as opportunities to view theater performances, magicians and dance.  Of course, the evening wouldn’t be complete, without an extraordinary Zambelli Fireworks display at midnight, along with a rockin’ show by country chart toppers from "The Voice," The Swon Brothers on the Highmark Stage.

The most attractive aspect to Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2015 is the engaging atmosphere cultivated by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Highmark First Night Pittsburgh offers the public a vast arenaCheryl CapezzutiPuppet Making Happy Hour on Thursday December 11th is a free event and includes cocktails, hors d’ouevres and a d.j.  On December 13th Capezzuti will conduct a Family Puppet Making Workshop. The afternoon instruction will offer families and children a unique opportunity to be involved in a one of a kind community event. Participants can sign up to carry their own creation in the First Night Parade. Sign up here to join in the parade,
Pirate Parrot
of performances by rising stars, displays of visually stunning art, curiously crafted choreography, witty and intelligently written dialogue on stage.  Organizers recognize the commitment and investment of local talents; therefore, you too are encouraged to get involved.  Does this sound like fun?  Beginning next weekend, help prepare puppetry for the FedEx Ground Parade with guidance from artist/ instructor and Fed-Ex Ground Parade Creative Director,

 Advanced registration is required for either puppet making workshop.  Visit for more information or to register. 

Admission to all of the Highmark First Night Pittsburgh 2015 events will require a button.  The full access button can be purchased from now until December 31st for $8.00 at participating Giant Eagle locations.   A button can also be purchased for $10.00 at the event.  Additionally, buy online at Children 5 and under are admitted free.  

Please be aware some indoor activities will require a voucher for admittance.  This ensures the safety of all people on New Year’s Eve by not allowing venues to fill beyond their intended capacity.  Vouchers can be reserved via phone, 412- 456- 6666 or at The Box Office at Theater Square located at 655 Penn Avenue.  A listing of events requiring a voucher can be obtained from

One last tip for making New Year’s 2015 memorable, the First Night Friends, VIP package allows guests to access priority seating, secure vouchers and acquire parking!  This is too good an opportunity to pass up, so call 412-471-6086 today to become a First Night Friend. From Belly Dancers and Roving Street Performers to County Artists and Fireworks, this is truly a family night with fun for everyone including mom and dad.

Reviewed by Megan Grabowski

Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.