‘World’s greatest’ is goal of new AWC head

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This Spring, André Kimo Stone Guess will begin the task of setting up The August Wilson Center for African American Culture as the top African-American cultural institution in the world. As the August Wilson Center’s new president, Guess, who will start his position April 16, said this goal is well within reach.

AndreKimoGuess
ANDRE KIMO STONE GUESS

“My vision for the August Wilson Center is it can and will be the preeminent institution for African-American culture in the world,” Guess said. “I’ve been fortunate to travel all around the world and there’s really nothing like it in the world. It’s everything in one that deals with African-American culture.”

Guess, 43, plans to begin by honing in on local talent, arts organizations and funders in order to create a strong regional presence. Though he did not share specific plans, he said it is first important to work to meet the needs of the local artists, who are following a long line of predecessors, many of whom played a key role in the Center’s creation.

“The connection there is the legacy of the greats who came out of Pittsburgh,” Guess said. “So many of them have poured their blood, sweat and tears into (the Center).”

Guess was originally called to Pittsburgh to work as a consultant for the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra in October 2009. It was at this time he attended the Center’s premiere performance and found out the Center was searching for a new president.

“When I saw (the Center) I was utterly amazed, not just at the physical space of it, but, you won’t find another place like this situated where it is, in a community where it is,” Guess said. “When you start stacking up all of these ingredients, and I saw it very quickly, I was like, this is it.”

Before founding his management and consulting GuessWorks firm in 2006, which works with non-profit institutions and performing artists. He held positions with the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City from 2000-2006 as vice president, producer, and director of finance and administration for the Jazz at Lincoln Center.

“You don’t get the type of experience I have by design. I’ve been very fortunate to be mentored by African-American men in every position I’ve had,” Guess said. “I think that’s a unique distinction I have. I count myself lucky in that regard.”

Among these mentors is Oliver Byrd, chairperson of the August Wilson Center Board of Directors. Byrd said Guess is the perfect person to lead the Center into its next phase and further its vision.

“Andre not only embraces that vision, but also has the solid experience of running and sustaining a cultural entity along with a track record of impressive results,” Byrd said.

In the past Guess has worked with institutions such as The Pew Charitable Trusts, William Penn Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New York City Opera, Brooklyn Music School, and the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay in Singapore.  He has also played key roles in the production of nine albums, one of which received a nomination for a Grammy.

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