The August Wilson African American Cultural Center Global Arts Advisory Council is made up of exceptional individuals who have excelled in their fields and are committed to supporting arts and culture. They have a voice and presence that commands attention and respect. This advisory board takes the name and brand of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center to new heights, destinations and audiences.
Purpose of Global Arts Advisory Council
• To raise the visibility of August Wilson African American Cultural Center in the national and international arts community
• To help publicize and promote the August Wilson African American Cultural Center to audiences beyond Pittsburgh
• To benefit from the experience of Advisors regarding strategic planning and addressing art and culture of the African Diaspora
• To benefit from the prestige associated with participation of Advisors
A 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award recipient and 2015 City Center Choreographer in residence, Kyle Abraham is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a 2013 MacArthur Fellow. Previous awards include being named a 2012 USA Ford Fellow, a Creative Capital grantee, and receiving a 2012 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award. In 2010, Abraham received a prestigious Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance in Dance for his work in The Radio Show and a Princess Grace Award for Choreography in 2010. The previous year, he was selected as one of Dance Magazine’s 25 To Watch for 2009.
In 2011, OUT Magazine labeled Abraham as the “best and brightest creative talent to emerge in New York City in the age of Obama. The mission of Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion is to create an evocative interdisciplinary body of work. Born into hip-hop culture in the late 1970s and grounded in Abraham’s artistic upbringing in classical cello, piano, and the visual arts, the goal of the movement is to delve into identity in relation to a personal history.
The work entwines a sensual and provocative vocabulary with a strong emphasis on sound, human behavior and all things visual to create an avenue for personal investigation and exposing that on stage. A.I.M. is a representation of dancers from various disciplines and diverse personal backgrounds. Combined together these individualities create movement that is manipulated and molded into something fresh and unique.
An actor, humanitarian, and the acknowledged “King of Calypso,” Harry Belafonte ranked among the most seminal performers of the postwar era. One of the most successful African-American pop stars in history, Belafonte’s staggering talent, good looks, and masterful assimilation of folk, jazz, and worldbeat rhythms allowed him to achieve a level of mainstream eminence and crossover popularity virtually unparalleled in the days before the advent of the civil rights movement — a cultural uprising which he himself helped spearhead.
Harold George Belafonte, Jr., was born March 1, 1927, in Harlem, NY. The son of Caribbean-born immigrants, he returned with his mother to her native Jamaica at the age of eight, remaining there for the next five years. Upon returning to the U.S., Belafonte dropped out of high school to enlist in the U.S. Navy; after his discharge, he resettled in New York City to forge a career as an actor, performing with the American Negro Theatre while studying drama at Erwin Piscator’s famed Dramatic Workshop alongside the likes of Marlon Brando and Tony Curtis.
A singing role resulted in a series of cabaret engagements, and eventually Belafonte even opened his own club. Initially, he put his clear, silky voice to work as a straight pop singer, launching his recording career on the Jubilee label in 1949; however, at the dawn of the 1950s he discovered folk music, learning material through the Library of Congress’ American folk songs archives while also discovering West Indian music. With guitarist Millard Thomas, Belafonte soon made his debut at the legendary jazz club the Village Vanguard; in 1953, he made his film bow in Bright Road, winning a Tony Award the next year for his work in the Broadway revue John Murray Anderson’s Almanac.
With his lead role in Otto Preminger’s film adaptation of Oscar Hammerstein’s Carmen Jones, Belafonte shot to stardom; after signing to the RCA label, he issued Mark Twain and Other Folk Favorites, which reached the number three slot on the Billboard charts in the early weeks of 1956. His next effort, titled simply Belafonte, reached number one, kick-starting a national craze for calypso music; Calypso, also issued in 1956, topped the charts for a staggering 31 weeks on the strength of hits like “Jamaica Farewell” and the immortal “Banana Boat (Day-O).”
Following the success of 1957’s An Evening with Belafonte and its hit “Mary’s Boy Child,” Belafonte returned to film, using his now considerable clout to realize the controversial film Island in the Sun, in which his character contemplates an affair with a white woman portrayed by Joan Fontaine. Similarly, 1959’s Odds Against Tomorrow cast him as a bank robber teamed with a racist accomplice. Also in 1959 he released the LP Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, a recording of a sold-out April performance that spent over three years on the charts; Belafonte Returns to Carnegie Hall followed in 1960 and featured appearances by Odetta, Miriam Makeba, and the Chad Mitchell Trio.
At the turn of the 1960s, Belafonte became television’s first black producer; his special Tonight with Harry Belafonte won an Emmy that same year. Although dissatisfied with filmmaking, he continued his prolific album output with 1961’s Jump Up Calypso and 1962’s The Midnight Special, which featured the first-ever recorded appearance by a young harmonica player named Bob Dylan. As the Beatles and other stars of the British Invasion began to dominate the pop charts, Belafonte’s impact as a commercial force diminished; 1964’s Belafonte at the Greek Theatre was his last Top 40 effort, and subsequent efforts like 1965’s An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba and 1966’s In My Quiet Room struggled even to crack the Top 100. 1969’s Homeward Bound earned Belafonte his final Billboard chart appearance, although he continued to record. He then made his first film appearance in over a decade in 1970’s The Angel Levine and continued to focus on his work as a civil rights activist.
In addition to his continued work in recording (albeit less frequently after leaving RCA in the mid-’70s) and film (1972’s Buck and the Preacher and 1974’s Uptown Saturday Night), Belafonte spent an increasing amount of the 1970s and 1980s as a tireless humanitarian; most famously, he was a central figure of the USA for Africa effort, singing on the 1985 single “We Are the World.” A year later, he replaced Danny Kaye as UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador. After a long absence from the screen, Belafonte resurfaced in the mid-’90s in a number of film roles, most notably in the reverse-racism drama White Man’s Burden and Robert Altman’s jazz-era period piece Kansas City. Although at this point Belafonte had stopped recording new music, he kept his name in the news by releasing the occasional live album (including 1997’s An Evening with Harry Belafonte & Friends) as well as being an outspoken proponent of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and opponent of the Bush government. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide
LATOYA RUBY FRAZIER
LaToya Ruby Frazier received her BFA in applied media arts from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania (2004) and her MFA in art photography from Syracuse University (2007). She also studied under the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (2010–2011) and was the Guna S. Mundheim Fellow for visual arts at the American Academy in Berlin (2013–2014).
Frazier works in photography, video and performance to build visual archives that address industrialism, rustbelt revitalization, environmental justice, healthcare inequity, family and communal history. In 2015 her first book The Notion of Family (Aperture 2014) received the International Center for Photography Infinity Award. Frazier is currently an Associate Professor of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has previously held academic and curatorial positions at Yale University School of Art, Rutgers University, and Syracuse University. Frazier lectures prolifically at academic and cultural institutions such as International Center of Photography, NY; Columbia University School of the Arts, NY; Parsons, New School, NY; Pratt Institute, NY; Cooper Union, NY; Tisch School of Arts, New York University; School of Visual Arts, NY; Freie Universitat Berlin, Dahlem Humanities Center and Hamburger Bahnhof; and Tate Modern, London among others.
Frazier’s work is exhibited widely in the U.S. and internationally, with notable solo exhibitions at Brooklyn Museum; Seattle Art Museum; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Her work has also been featured in the following group shows: The Generational Triennial: Younger Than Jesus (2009), New Museum, NY; Greater New York (2010), MoMA PS1, NY; Commercial Break , Garage Projects (2011), 54th Venice Biennale; Gertrude’s/LOT (2011), Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Empire State (2013), Palazzo delle Esposizinoi, Rome; and The Way Of The Shovel: Art as Archaeology (2013), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago among many others.
Her work has been exhibited in the following biennials: the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial (2012), NY; Recycling Memory: Recapturing the Lost City (2014), 11th Nicaraguan Visual Arts Biennial, Managua; Mom , am , I barbarian? (2013),13th Istanbul Biennial; and Busan Biennale (2014), South Korea.
She is the recipient of many honors and awards including an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute (2017); fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s MacArthur Fellows Program (2015), TED Fellows (2015), and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2014); the Gwendolyn Knight & Jacob Lawrence Prize from the Seattle Art Museum (2013), the Theo Westenberger Award of the Creative Capital Foundation (2012), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2011), and Art Matters (2010). In 2015, the Allegheny County Council (Pennsylvania, USA) awarded Frazier a Proclamation thanking her for “examining race, class, gender and citizenship in our society and inspiring a vision for the future that offers inclusion, equity and justice to all.”
Her work can be found in public and private art collections such as Museum of Modern Art; Brooklyn Museum; Seattle Art Museum; Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh; Centre National Des Arts Plastiques, France; JP Morgan Chase Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago; Nasher Museum at Duke University, Durham, N.C.; Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Zabludowicz Collection, London
Vanessa German is an American sculptor, painter, writer, activist, performer, and poet based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Her sculpture often includes assembled statues of female figures created with their heads/ faces painted black and a wide range of attached objects flowing outward including fabric, keys, found objects, and toy weapons.
Her work is held in numerous permanent collections including the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and has been reviewed by Sculpture and discussed in The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, and on NPR’s All Things Considered. Her art has been featured in a wide range of galleries, museums and traveling exhibits, including the 2012 “African American Art 1950-Present” touring exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution. She was a 2015 recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Grant.
Three-time Grammy Award winner Angélique Kidjo is one of the greatest artists in international music today, a creative force with thirteen albums to her name. Time Magazine has called her “Africa’s premier diva”. The BBC has included her in its list of the continent’s 50 most iconic figures, and in 2011 The Guardian listed her as one of their Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World. Forbes Magazine has ranked Angelique as the first woman in their list of the Most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. She is the recent recipient of the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and the 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award.
As a performer, her striking voice, stage presence and fluency in multiple cultures and languages have won respect from her peers and expanded her following across national borders. Kidjo has cross-pollinated the West African traditions of her childhood in Benin with elements of American R&B, funk and jazz, as well as influences from Europe and Latin America.
The new year brings us Angélique’s newest project, her interpretation of The Talking Heads’ classic 1980 album, Remain in Light. She will record her version of the album with superstar producer Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake, Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, and Taylor Swift), taking classic songs such as “Crosseyed and Painless,” “Once in a Lifetime,” and “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” and reinterpreting them with electrifying rhythms, African guitars, and layered backing vocals. Angélique will bring this musical extravaganza to concert halls and festivals across the globe including a premier performance at Carnegie Hall and U.S. festival debut at Bonnaroo in 2017.
Her star-studded album DJIN DJIN won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Album in 2008, and her album OYO was nominated for the same award in 2011. In January 2014 Angélique’s first book, a memoir titled Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music (Harper Collins) and her twelfth album, EVE (Savoy/429 Records), were released to critical acclaim. EVE later went on to win the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 2015, and her historic, orchestral album Sings with the Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg (Savoy/429 Records) won a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 2016.
Angelique has gone on to perform this genre-bending work with several international orchestras and symphonies including the Bruckner Orchestra, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Philharmonie de Paris. Her collaboration with Philip Glass, IFÉ: Three Yorùbá Songs, made its US debut to a sold out concert with the San Francisco Symphony in June 2015. In addition to performing this new orchestral concert, Angelique continues to tour globally performing the high-energy concert she’s become famous for with her four-piece band. Her rousing live show was recently captured at the revered Austin City Limits and made its television debut in January 2016.
Angelique also travels the world advocating on behalf of children in her capacity as a UNICEF and OXFAM goodwill Ambassador. She created her own charitable foundation, Batonga, dedicated to support the education of young girls in Africa.
S. EPATHA MERKERSON
A native of Michigan, S. Epatha Merkerson earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Wayne State University. In 1978, she moved to New York City to apply her craft on stage. Although best known since 1993 as the smart and shrewd Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the long-running TV crime drama Law & Order (1990), she has a long list of Broadway and off-Broadway credits and honors that include Drama Desk Award and Tony Award nominations for Best Actress for her performance in the August Wilson play The Piano Lesson (1995), a 1992 Obie Award for her performance in “I’m Not Stupid,” and a 1998 Helen Hayes Award for her starring role in the Studio Theater production in Washington, DC, of the John Henry Redwood play “The Old Settler.” Her first appearance on television was a guest-starring role on an episode of The Cosby Show (1984). Her earliest regular role in television, however, was that of Reba the Mail Woman on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse(1986). Merkerson remains a theatrical force on the stage and on the screen and has the distinction of having been nominated for an Image Award in the Outstanding-Lead-Actress-in-a-Drama category for Law & Order (1990) for three consecutive years by the NAACP.
A native of New Castle, Pennsylvania, Mosley enlisted in the U.S. Navy, then graduated in 1950 from the University of Pittsburgh,] where he majored in English and journalism, then settled in Pittsburgh and took a job with the U.S. Postal Service. Some freelance journalism in the 1950s for the Pittsburgh Courier and various national magazines sparked his interest in carving and sculpture.
His solo and two-person exhibits include events at the Carnegie Museum of Art in 1968 and 1997; the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts (PCA)’s Artist of the Year show in 1979; the Three Rivers Arts Festival with Selma Burke in 1990; and the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in 1995. His best-known sculptures in Pittsburgh are the 14-foot cedar Phoenix at the corner of Centre Avenue and Dinwiddie in the Hill District and the Mountaintop limestone at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in the Hill District at Herron and Milwaukee Streets.
Mosley’s awards include the 1999 Governor’s Award for Artist of the Year in Pennsylvania Visual Arts, the PCA 2000 Cultural Award, and the PCA 2002 Service to the Arts Award and Exhibition. The latter award, first awarded in 1997, is given to a member of the local arts community for demonstrating inspiration, involvement, commitment and passion for the arts.
A constant contributor to charity auctions (he recently donated two pieces to the Sharry Evrett Scholarship Award auction and created a penguin for Sweetwater Center for the Arts’ Penguins on Parade auction), he also is widely respected as an instructor, having given countless workshops on woodcarving at colleges and art centers locally and regionally. Most notable has been the Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, Fayette County, where he has taught wood sculpture every summer for more than 20 years.
His commissions include Three Rivers Bench in 2003 for the David L. Lawrence Convention Center; Legends at the Susquehanna Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, from December 2003 to March 2004; and an exhibition at the Cue Art Foundation Gallery in New York City in March 2004.
In 1997, Pittsburgh author David Lewis published Thaddeus Mosley: African-American Sculptor, a 97-page book published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.
His affiliations include many years as an officer of the Pittsburgh Society of Sculptors and service as a board member for the August Wilson African American Cultural Center.
A 45-minute documentary on Mosley’s life, Thaddeus Mosley: Sculptor, was completed in 2012.
Once pronounced by Bob Dylan as America’s “greatest living poet,” acclaimed singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson’s career spans over 4 decades of hits. He has received numerous awards including the Grammy Living Legend Award, NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award, Honorary Doctorate (Howard University), Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts Award from the President of the United States. He has also been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Robinson founded The Miracles while still in high school. The group was Berry Gordy’s first vocal group, and it was at Robinson’s suggestion that Gordy started the Motown Record dynasty. Their single of Robinson’s “Shop Around” became Motown’s first #1 hit on the R&B singles chart. In the years following, Robinson continued to pen hits for the group including “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Ooo Baby Baby,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Going to a Go-Go,” “More Love,” “Tears of a Clown” (co-written with Stevie Wonder), and “I Second That Emotion.”
The Miracles dominated the R&B scene throughout the 1960’s and early 70’s and Robinson became Vice President of Motown Records serving as in-house producer, talent scout and songwriter.
In addition to writing hits for the Miracles, Robinson wrote and produced hits for other Motown greats including The Temptations, Mary Wells, Brenda Holloway, Marvin Gaye and others. “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “My Girl,” “Get Ready,” “You Beat Me to the Punch,” “Don’t Mess with Bill,” “Ain’t That Peculiar,” and “My Guy” are just a few of his songwriting triumphs during those years.
John Lennon of The Beatles made countless remarks regarding Robinson’s influence on his music. The Beatles had recorded Robinson and The Miracles’ “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” in 1963 and in 1982 another popular British group, The Rolling Stones covered the Robinson and the Miracles’ hit “Going To A Go-Go.”
He later turned to a solo career where he continued his tradition of hitmaking with “Just to See Her,” “Quiet Storm,” “Cruisin’,” and “Being with You,” among others.
He remained Vice President of Motown records until the sale of the company, shaping the label’s success with friend and mentor Berry Gordy. Following his tenure at Motown, he continued his impressive touring career and released several successful solo albums.
During the course of his 50-year career in music, Robinson has accumulated more than 4,000 songs to his credit and continues to thrill sold-out audiences around the world with his high tenor voice, impeccable timing, and profound sense of lyric. Never resting on his laurels, Smokey Robinson remains a beloved icon in our musical heritage.
CONSTANZA ROMERO WILSON
Constanza Romero Wilson is an award-winning costume designer. She was married to August Wilson until his untimely death in 2005. She was awarded the 1996 Drama Logue Award for Costume Design for “Seven Guitars” at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California. She was awarded the 2003 Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Costume Design (Large Theatre) for “Gem of the Ocean,” at the Mark Taper Forum Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Romero Wilson lovingly manages the estate of August Wilson and is a solid partner in celebrating his legacy at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center.