Stocks & pedestal — Summer 2009

August Wilson Center for African American Culture
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Winding its way through the Laurel Highlands is one of the most beautiful trout streams in western Pennsylvania. If you’ve ever waded into the stream, you know its charms — the rocks, the flowing water and the trees that line the banks. You could be anywhere, but you happen to be in Somerset County.

Laurel Hill Creek, however, is seventh on the list of America’s 10 most endangered rivers. The national advocacy group American Rivers recently released its findings, citing excessive water usage. It says, “Development pressures are growing. Two major ski resorts that use the creek to supply water to hotels, condominiums and snowmaking systems plan to expand. Plans exist for construction of 1,200 condominiums, two golf courses and development at one of the resorts. A proposed water bottling facility could withdraw up to 108,000 gallons per day.”

Further threatening Laurel Hill Creek are thousands of applications for the water-​intensive process of withdrawing natural gas from the Marcellus Shale Formation, the huge gas seam under the area. American Rivers says it’s possible that Laurel Hill Creek could dry up altogether if the state Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t carefully monitor and oversee the situation. The group suggests that the DEP follow its own State Water Plan and protect the creek.

We agree. Laurel Hill Creek is a source of drinking water for Somerset, but it is also a beautiful natural asset for residents of greater Pittsburgh. We simply have to break our historical pattern of degrading our environment and realize that Laurel Hill Creek must be protected if western Pennsylvania is to be a place where people want to live in the future.

On a pedestal: August Wilson Center for African American Culture

Hoisted via cranes atop this issue’s pedestal is the new August Wilson Center for African American Culture. The center’s mission is “to preserve, present and interpret the art, culture and history of African Americans in western Pennsylvania and people of African descent throughout the world.”

And when you walk through, you find that Downtown has also gained an exciting new venue for shows, parties, art and culture. From the café on the first level that will feature sidewalk seating, to the broad gathering spaces, to the dramatic and intimate theater, the center promises to be a happening place that is sure to enhance Pittsburgh’s reputation for culture, period, let alone African American culture.

The centerpiece is the breathtaking 486-​seat theater, with a variety of singular shows programmed by the center’s staff of 20. But there’s also ample gallery space, an education center, and a particularly promising space on the second floor called “In My Father’s House.” This multimedia center is designed as four lived-​in environments with photographs and other collections curated by the center.

The capital campaign is raising the final $2 million for the $36 million project on Liberty Avenue between William Penn Place and 10th Street. Congratulations go to those who launched it and persevered to make the center happen.

As the Pittsburgh Courier recently wrote, the center is a “breathing monument to its namesake and the contributions of Black Pittsburghers to American culture… and the only interdisciplinary African-​American facility of its kind in the United States.”

Douglas Heuck

A journalistic innovator, Heuck has been writing about Pittsburgh for 25 years, as an investigative reporter and business editor at The Pittsburgh Press and Post-​Gazette and as the founder of Pittsburgh Quarterly. His newspaper projects ranged from living on the streets disguised as a homeless man to penning the only comprehensive profile in the latter years of polio pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk to creating a statistical means of judging regional progress that has led to similar projects across the country. Heuck’s work has won numerous national, state and local writing awards. His work has been cited in the landmark media law case “Food Lion vs. ABC news.”

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