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Award-winning composer Geri Allen has accepted an invitation to join the AWC Renewal Inc. board and help the August Wilson Center for African American Culture as it moves toward becoming one of the region’s great arts venues.

Board Chair and Common Pleas Judge Joseph K. Williams III told the New Pittsburgh Courier Allen’s considerable talent and unique perspective will be of enormous help as it works to build its programming strategy.

“Her talent and notoriety adds important name recognition to our board. She’s the leader of the Jazz Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh, one of the finest graduate programs in the country,” he said.

“As such, she is positioned to support connections between the August Wilson Center, the academy and the Pittsburgh community with interests in national and international collaborations as we create equity through the arts and build our programming goals for the future.”

Allen said she is honored to have been considered.

“I am honored and really excited to be have been invited, and as a new member I’m looking forward to the process of watching the August Wilson Center evolve into what we all hope it can be,” she said.

Williams said Allen, who has released nearly 20 albums—the most recent, Erroll Garner’s “New Complete Concert By The Sea” received both a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Historical Reissue and an NAACP Image Award nomination for Jazz Album of the Year, brings a distinct dynamic to the table.

“As a board member, she will be able to provide tremendous insight into some of today’s cutting edge artists and scholars who should be on our radar to engage our audiences of all ages,” said Williams. “We are fortunate to have her in Pittsburgh.”

The AWC Renewal Inc. board is responsible for the leadership, future artistic, cultural and engagement direction of the August Wilson Center. The fiscal duties are being shepherded by a separate board that includes members of the Black business community, the foundation community and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Though Allen joins AR Records Vice President and composer Rex Rideout, and hip-hop artist and activist Jasiri X on the “artistic” board, she also joins three lawyers—four, if you count Williams—business and nonprofit attorney James E. Abraham; Director Litigation & Risk Management FedEx Ground Clarence Dozier and U. S. Steel, Corp Corporate Secretary & Associate General Counsel Arden Phillips.

“There are many structural issues regarding the relaunch of the Center and this board’s relationship with other entities. The details of building a solid foundation are often rooted in a legal skill set—governance, risk assessment, contracts and organizational development,” said Williams.

“The three recording artists, too, bring different disciplines. Jasiri X is very much tied to a younger demographic and understanding of community issues; Rex Rideout reflects a national music industry perspective and brings an entertainment business understanding underscored by his local roots. We’ve already addressed the dynamic Geri Allen brings.”

Williams said as both boards work towards finding an executive director for the Center, they will remain “mindful of the need for board members to provide oversight and guidance—not take on day-to-day management roles.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)



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