August Wilson African American Cultural Center announces September reopening and new exhibition | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

August Wilson African American Cultural Center announces September reopening and new exhibition

Dominic Chambers/Courtesy of August Wilson African American Cultural Center
Dominic Chambers, Red Sky Visitors, 2019
Like most arts institutions in Pittsburgh and around the country, the August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC) has been closed since the start of the pandemic. Now the center, which focuses on the African-American experience, the celebration of Black culture, and the African diaspora, will soon welcome visitors once again with the debut of a new exhibition.

AWAACC announced today that it will reopen on Fri., Sept. 18 with a new solo exhibition, Dominic Chambers: Like the Shape of Clouds on Water. This marks the first in-person show since the center closed on March 14, forcing much of its programming, including two major gallery shows – the photography exhibition Vanishing Black Bars & Lounges and the collaborative multimedia show I came by Boat so Meet me at the Beach – online.

It also marks the Pittsburgh debut of Chambers, a New Haven, Conn.-based artist who has shown at galleries and museums across the U.S. and in Europe. In a press release, AWAACC visual arts curator, Kilolo Luckett, says Like the Shape of Clouds on Water – on view from Sept. 18-Dec. 13 – will feature a series of paintings Chambers has been working on over the past year.

On its website, the Luce Gallery in Turin, Italy, which featured another solo Chambers exhibition, Life is Elsewhere earlier this year, describes Chambers' work as challenging “historical and contemporary associations regarding the [Black] body, depicting it in moments of meditation and contemplation inside settings of his own devising,” with many works portraying Black subjects reading or in repose.

“Foregrounding Black figures in moments of contemplation and leisure, Chambers paints real people inhabiting imagined dreamscapes, and I look forward to the conversations that his work will spark within our community,” says Luckett.

AWAACC president and CEO, Janis Burley Wilson, calls Chambers a “dynamic young artist” whose art “feels kindred with August Wilson’s writings and takes inspiration from literary narratives, various mythologies, and African American history.”

With the reopening comes new safety meaures and enhanced cleaning procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Per the AWAACC website, the center now has hand sanitizing stations at the entrance and throughout the building. All patrons will be required to submit a temperature check, and capacity in AWAACC's Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation Gallery, where Like the Shape of Clouds on Water will be shown, will be reduced to 10% in order to accommodate social distancing. Staff and visitors are also being required to wear face masks while inside the building.

Despite these changes, the AWAACC galleries will still be free and open to the public. For those still wary of going out in public, AWAACC will also offer a virtual tour of Like the Shape of Clouds on Water on its website.

Whether visitors choose to visit the gallery in person or view it online, Burley Wilson believes the new exhibition will serve as a much-needed salve for those reeling from the devastation and isolation of the pandemic, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing nationwide protests against police brutality.

“It is what we need now as a community to heal through art,” says Burley Wilson.

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