The Writer’s Landscape
The August Wilson African American Cultural Center, one of the largest cultural organizations in the country focused exclusively on the African American experience and the arts of the African diaspora, is creating August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape, the first-ever exhibition dedicated to the life and works of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. Opening in spring 2022, the 3,600 square foot permanent exhibition will explore the people and places of Pittsburgh, where Wilson was born and raised, and which had a profound impact on shaping his worldview and inspiring his unprecedented 10-play American Century Cycle. Presented in three sections, or acts, August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape will showcase the universal themes the prolific playwright tackled and the enduring relevance of his work through artifacts from Wilson’s life and notable productions of his work; elements that invite patrons to address the issues of race, representation, family, and community; and interactive digital components that showcase each play in the cycle and where Wilson’s works are being presented around the world today.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, 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 1900s, were largely informed by Wilson’s observations of the environment that surrounded him.
To bring Wilson’s story to life, August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape will guide visitors through three sections, or acts:
- The Coffee Shop: inspired by a local eatery in the Hill District, where a young Wilson frequently went to observe the day-to-day interactions of its diners. He scrawled notes on napkins, which subsequently provided the basis for many of his characters and the inspiration for his storytelling;
- The Office: a replica of Wilson’s home office that will showcase his working environment and items that he prized, including his writing desk, manuscripts, books and records from his collection, generously donated by the Wilson Estate;
- The Street: a recreation of Pittsburgh’s Hill District over the span of Wilson’s life, featuring an interactive map of the neighborhood exploring how it’s evolved through the years. Utilizing video, props, and costumes from notable Broadway productions of his work, this section will provide insight into major themes from each play in the American Century Cycle. Highlighting the universality of his plays, this section will show all current and scheduled productions of his plays across the globe. It will also invite visitors to share how Wilson has been a creative inspiration to them, highlighting how the issues and people he wrote about more than four decades ago continue to be timeless and relevant today.
Developed in partnership with the exhibition’s lead advisor, Constanza Romero Wilson, Wilson’s widow and executor of the August Wilson Estate, the Center is also collaborating with Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Sandra Shannon, Professor of African American Literature at Howard University and founder of the August Wilson Society, as well as longtime Wilson collaborator and Tony Award-winning scenic designers David Gallo and Viveca Gardner. The exhibition is being 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, and 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. August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape, which will be free of charge and open daily, expands the non-profit organization’s mission to offer programs and resources that advance Wilson’s legacy, celebrate Black culture, and champion future innovators in arts and culture.
This project received a RADical ImPAct Grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD). To learn more about RAD’s impact on our region, visit radworkshere.org.