With the strains of soft jazz and the aroma of the Savoy Lunch on Liberty entrees wafting through the doors, the August Wilson African American Cultural Center Board Chairman Aaron Walton noted it was a beautiful day.

It was made even better when he announced that philanthropist and entrepreneur Chuck Sanders was underwriting the center’s upcoming season of programming—all of it, with a donation of $100,000.

BIG CHECK—Chuck Sanders, right, gives check to August Wilson Center for African American Culture Board Chair Aaron Walton. (Photo by Rossano P. Stewart)

“We don’t often get to share good news. So I’m very excited to announce very good news today,” he said. “It represents the broad commitment to presenting outstanding programming we enjoy from the public, private and foundation community. Thank you. We look forward to a long and prosperous relationship with Savoy and Chuck Sanders Charities.”

Outgoing CEO Andre Kimo Stone Guess thanked Sanders for helping the organization achieve its goals.

“I came here a few years ago to share the vision of a premier African American Cultural Center and I am proud to see the center continue to realize that vision,” he said.

That vision will be reflected in a 2012-2013 season that includes theatrical productions of August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean” and “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” “The Sisters Gray” by Gab Cody and Lori Roper, and the 486 Club.

Dance performances will include the Black Dance Festival II, The List and Lunch With The Arts. Visual arts displays will include the exhibition Richard Barthe: His Life in Art, The Nazi Olympics and solo exhibits by selected local artists.

The upcoming season will also feature a number of festivals including The Family Series, OffCenter, Dance Academy, Reading Roundtable, The Family Reading Series, The Big Read, The African American Heritage Day Parade, The MLK Free Day and RADical Days.

And the man who is underwriting it all through his charitable foundation said there is more to come.

“Seeing how committed everyone here is, this was a no brainer. Hey when I was a kid, I did plays, and this is just my way of giving back,” he said. “There is no greater representation of art in Pittsburgh than August Wilson. This $100,000 is just the beginning. I am blessed to be able to do this.”

After the check presentation, Walton again thanked Sanders for his gift, and Guess for remaining with the center to assist with the transition while the national search for a new CEO continues. But, he added, that will be made easier now that the board has selected two founding members to act as co-directors until the search is completed.

“The board has selected Sala Udin and Oliver Byrd. So there is no rush now because we have continuity with them here,” he said. “As for our overall position, we are not exempt from the challenges of this economy, but today is a demonstration of the strong support we have for what we are trying to accomplish.”

Guess will be leaving at the end of July.

Sanders said again he is blessed to be in a position to make such a donation.

“If you’re going to give, you might as well be a cheerful giver,” he said. “I believe in what they are doing here. So, it’s good.”

The new season kicks off with “Gem of the Ocean,” directed by Mark Clayton Southers, Sept. 9.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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