The Fabulous Kennedy Center: A Living Legacy
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The Fabulous Kennedy Center: A Living Legacy


The Fabulous Kennedy Center: A Living Legacy

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed bipartisan legislation creating a National
Cultural Center in the nation’s capital. In November of 1962, President and Mrs. Kennedy
launched a $30 million fundraising campaign for the Center’s construction. Former President Eisenhower and his wife Mamie participated in the event which demonstrated the bipartisan support for a world-class center for the performing arts in Washington, DC. In 1963, President Kennedy signed legislation to extend the fundraising deadline for the Center. Two months after President Kennedy’s assassination, by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on January 23, 1964, the nation’s National Cultural Center was designated as a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy. By this Act, President Kennedy’s devotion to the advancement of the performing arts in the United States was recognized.

Architect Edward Durell Stone designed the Kennedy Center. It’s massive at 100 feet high, 630 feet long, and 300 feet wide. It features a grand foyer, with 16 hand-blown Orrefors crystal chandeliers (a gift from Sweden) and red carpeting. The Hall of States and the Hall of Nations are both 250 feet long.

Cyril M. Harris designed the Kennedy Center’s auditoriums and their acoustics. One of the key considerations that needed to be addressed was the many aircraft flying along the Potomac River and over the Kennedy Center en route to and from nearby Washington National Airport. To keep out this noise, the Kennedy Center was designed as a box within a box, giving each auditorium an extra outer shell.

The Center houses seven theaters, including the Concert Hall, known for its impressive acoustics and symphonic performances. Artwork given by many countries can be found both in and outside the center, including a statue of Don Quixote (a gift from Spain) and Henri Matisse tapestries in the Opera House lobby (a gift from France).

Of course, the best way to experience the Kennedy Center is to see a show. The Center is the busiest of all U.S. performing arts centers, hosting more than 2,000 performances a year. Over two million people annually watch performances, from orchestra seats at sold-out shows to the free concert series at the Millenium Stage. The National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, and The Washington Ballet. Throughout its history, the National Symphony Orchestra has served the nation through annual
state residencies, national television broadcasts, radio broadcasts, and touring. The NSO is also a cultural ambassador for the United States and represents the nation on tours to Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East.

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