Two years ago, as the August Wilson Center for African American Culture was set to celebrate its one-year anniversary, many believed the ship in the heart of the Cultural District was sinking under the weight of construction cost debt and fundraising shortfalls. However, the following year, AWC President and CEO Andre Kimo Stone Guess announced the AWC had balanced their budget for the 2011 fiscal year and the center’s financial troubles began to fade into the background.


Now, after two years with the center, Guess will be leaving to return to work with his own management-consulting firm. On June 8, AWC Board Chairman Aaron Walton announced Guess has chosen not to renew his contract set to expire on June 30.

Guess has not made any public statements or released a press statement regarding his departure.

“He decided he’s going to return back to his home state of Kentucky with his family and he said he was going to go back to his consulting business,” Walton said. “What he has agreed to do is extend the contract through Sept. 30 so we can transition and continue the planning we were engaged in. He’ll also be available if we needed something after September.”

Guess has elected to extend his contract for three months to allow the AWC time to search for his replacement. Walton said the board would begin discussing their search process at their annual meeting June 12.

Prior to his time with AWC, Guess founded GuessWorks, a management consulting firm that works with non-profit institutions and performing artists. Walton said Guess would be available to work with the center as a consultant through GuessWorks after his contract has been completed.

One of Guess’ major accomplishments during his tenure was reducing the center’s $11.2 million credit balance to $7 million. This occurred earlier this month when the center refinanced their mortgage with the help of R.K Mellon Foundation, Kresge Foundation, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Dollar Bank.

“(The center) was just a year old when (Guess) got here and it was really just getting programs started,” Walton said. “He’s had a successful two years.”

Moving forward, Walton said he hopes to eliminate the center’s debt in three to five years. His other goals are to increase engagement by the community and to solidify the center’s position as a premier African-American institution.

“We’re putting together a strategic plan for the next three to five years so when we’re looking for a new person, we would expect them to execute the plan we put together,” Walton said. “We have great potential. Our vision is to make the August Wilson Center a destination point for people coming to Pittsburgh.”

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