A nonprofit named for Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson’s mother is restoring his boyhood home as a space to support the arts.
The Daisy Wilson Artist Community is creating a place where the public can explore the cultural narrative of Wilson’s plays through seminars, readings, receptions, exhibits and performances. The August Wilson House at 1727 Bedford Avenue will support literature, music and the fine arts through personalized educational and artistic activities designed to enrich the Hill District and the City.
“This is still a house,” says Christopher Rawson, who serves on the board of the Daisy Wilson Artist Community. “As such, it’s going to contain intimate spaces that will be used for these workshops and visiting artists.”
Pfaffmann + Associates is serving as the restoration architect and students from the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh will be learning skills throughout the restoration. Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture’s Project RE will provide fabrication facilities and other resources. “One of the most exciting aspects of this project,” says Rob Pfaffmann, principal of Pfaffmann + Associates and board member of the Daisy Wilson Artist Community, “are the partnerships that have been created.
“Every project we work on we try to understand who and what came before us,” says Pfaffmann. “Architecture starts with listening to the spirit of place. That spirit can be enhanced or suppressed through the restoration plans.” Pfaffmann was also involved in the restoration of Rachel Carson’s house and noted how these homes have a strong sense of place that can be retained through the architecture.
The partnerships that have been created to accomplish the restoration, such as the one with Duquesne University Honors College students, will allow people to continue to learn about his art. “By studying Wilson’s work, students are steeped in humanity,” says Kathleen Glenister Roberts, director of the Honors College. Duquesne students have been involved in programming the space around the house, including planning a large community block party that took place on Wilson’s 71st birthday.
A digital point cloud survey of the exterior and interior of the home was recently completed byJohn Folan’s Urban Design Build studio using new Autodesk technologies. A drone was used to gather data that captured every detail of the house down to the inch. This type of detail will allow elaborate scrollwork, for example, to be replicated by Trade Institute students using different technologies.
The August Wilson House is a project of the Daisy Wilson Artist Community, Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit with a mission is to promote the literary and social legacy of August Wilson through the restoration of his boyhood home.
The first phase of the project will be to restore the exterior masonry and the former first-floor market into a small gallery and performance space, funded by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. The Daisy Wilson Artist Community is currently fundraising at www.gofundme.com/augustwilsonhome.