August Wilson’s boyhood home has been in the news. It had fallen into disrepair over the years but it will be getting a new life as a community arts space including “work and gallery space for artists, living space for a visiting artist and incorporating neighboring vacant lots to host outside events and parking spaces.” August Wilson’s ten-play cycle is celebrated worldwide and won two Pulitzer prizes for best drama–the plays focus on the lives of African Americans in the Hill District where Wilson grew up. His boyhood home is not only a Pittsburgh landmark–it’s also on the National Registry of historic landmarks.
The restoration of his old home will not only provide for artists in the future, it’s helping to restore lives right now. Stephen Shelton, founder and president of the non profit Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, recognized that the skill and tradition of builders and craftsmen is in danger of being lost. But he wanted to do more than just train the next generation of skilled tradesmen, he wanted to rebuild lives. The students at the Trade Institute include people who need a leg up including the the homeless, the unemployed and those who have been formerly incarcerated. Along with learning brick/block masonry, commercial roofing, stone masonry, and metal smithing, they are given life counseling, lessons at realistic work site environments, and job placement.
Workers on the home include an apprentice carpenter and two apprentice bricklayers from the institute. They are taking care of the most immediate needs including replacing crumbling exterior brickwork and repairing the roof. More money will be needed to renovate the interior.
But for now, three men who faced a bleak future will graduate from the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh with much sought after skills and a chance for renewed lives with livable wages, and well earned self respect.
You can learn more about the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh at their web site and by watching their video below. You can also learn more about this restoration project and the three men who worked on it at the following media links: