John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, our #2 top national arts and culture nonprofit, was heralded by our experts for its long history of promoting and presenting the arts to wider and wider audiences. Beyond their general mandate, experts noted a variety of particular programs which have aided artists and arts organizations.
This is the founding story of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:
The Kennedy Center is a performing arts center located on the banks of the Potomac River near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., opened to the public in September 1971. But its roots date back to 1958, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed bipartisan legislation creating a National Cultural Center.
President John F. Kennedy was a lifelong supporter and advocate of the arts, and frequently steered the public discourse toward what he called “our contribution to the human spirit.” Kennedy took the lead in raising funds for the new National Cultural Center, holding special White House luncheons and receptions, appointing his wife Jacqueline and Mrs. Eisenhower as honorary co-chairwomen, and in other ways placing the prestige of his office firmly behind the endeavor.
Two months after President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, Congress designated the National Cultural Center (designed by Edward Durell Stone) as a “living memorial” to Kennedy, and authorized $23 million to help build what is now known as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Fundraising continued at a swift pace–with much help coming from the Friends of the Kennedy Center volunteers, who fanned out across the nation to attract private support –and nations around the world began donating funds, building materials, and artworks to assist in the project’s completion. In December 1965, President Lyndon Johnson turned the first shovelful of earth at the Center’s construction site, using the same gold-plated spade that had been used in the groundbreaking ceremonies for both the Lincoln Memorial in 1914 and the Jefferson Memorial in 1938.
The Center has co-produced more than 300 new works of theater over the past 38 years, including Tony-winning shows ranging from Annie in 1977 to A Few Good Men, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, The King and I, Titanic, and the American premiere of Les Misérables. 17 million people nationwide take part in innovative and effective education programs initiated by the Center, and millions of people watch its television programs every year.
(Learn more here: http://www.kennedy-center.org/about/history.html)
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