Major Competitive National Grant to August Wilson House

Duquesne University has received and will administer a federal Save America's Treasures grant of $499,628 on behalf of the August Wilson House.

The grant will support restoration efforts for the August Wilson House (AWH), the Pittsburgh playwright's Hill District childhood home. The project will restore the building as a multi-disciplinary arts and education center.

Save America's Treasures is administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and Institute of Museum and Library Science. In total, 41 preservation sites and conservation projects in 23 states shared a total of $12.6 million. The maximum grant was for $500,000.  

The August Wilson House grant was one of 17 projects in the $400,000 to $500,000 range. Other grants at that level include the Smithsonian Institution for saving sound recordings from Alexander Graham Bell's Volta Laboratory; preservation of the Nantucket Lightship/LV-112 in Massachusetts; restoring Willa Cather's childhood home in Red Cloud, Nebraska; rehabilitation of the historic Fort Worden quartermaster's office in Port Townsend, Washington; and restoration of the Marble House roof in Newport, R.I.  

"Save America's Treasures helps preserve nationally significant historic properties and collections that convey our nation's rich heritage to future generations of Americans," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.  

This competitive award required AWH to raise matching funds. AWH met and exceeded the challenge through the efforts of a private group of national arts and entertainment stars coordinated by Denzel Washington. In addition, AWH itself has received sizable grants over several years from the Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Hillman Family Foundations, The Pittsburgh Foundation, McAuley Ministries, and the Growth Opportunity Fund.  

"This is not just a national recognition of the importance of August Wilson House," said its executive director Paul A. Ellis, Jr. "It honors and affects all of Pittsburgh, as well."  

"Just as August Wilson preserved and celebrated African-American life through the decades, so will this grant help us advance his good works for generations to come," Mayor William Peduto said.  

The AWH restoration project is now in final design stage, with construction to begin by the end of 2019. Organizers intend a grand opening on or before Wilson's birthday, April 27, 2021. Funds raised will go beyond construction to support a wide range of artistic and educational programs involving local and visiting artists, educational tours of the house and the Hill, performances of many genres, seminars and reading roundtables, and arts for children.  

Two of AWH signature programs have already made their mark on the community. Started in 2016, the annual August Wilson Birthday Block Party has grown to attract more than 6,000 people. An annual outdoor production of an August Wilson play, in collaboration with Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, has included Seven Guitars and King Hedly II, both staged in the backyard where August played as a child, and Gem of the Ocean, just staged at 1839 Wylie Ave., the location specified in the play.  

In addition, in conjunction with long-time partner Duquesne University, AWH welcomed the first Duquesne University/August Wilson House Fellow, with former U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey as the first honoree. Collaborative programs are promised soon with the University of Pittsburgh and its Center for African American Poetry and Poetics.  

"We are thrilled that our decade-long relationship with the August Wilson House has blossomed into this special grants assistance initiative that will enrich the Hill District and the entire greater Pittsburgh community," says Duquesne University President Ken Gormley. "Duquesne is deeply committed to building community relationships that can benefit all concerned.  We take seriously our role as an anchor institution as we work together with our community partners to re-envision the region for a new era."

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