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January 29, 2013

Kennedy Center expansion project for education gets $50 million lead gift

It's not quite the gigantic, $650 million project envisioned a decade ago by Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser, but the $100 million southward expansion announced Tuesday marks a major step for the institution.

With a lead gift of $50 million from the center's chairman, Baltimore-born David M. Rubenstein, the building venture, being designed by Steven Holl Architects, will see pavilions for classrooms, multipurpose facilities and rehearsal spaces rise on the property just south of the Kennedy Center, toward the Roosevelt Bridge. It's the biggest expansion since the center opened in 1971.

In a nice retro touch, the project will include ...

space for outdoor performances on a facility floating on the Potomac -- not far from where the National Symphony Orchestra used to give summertime concerts on a barge (that spot was known as the Watergate, a name adopted and subsequently made awfully famous by a housing/office complex north of the Kennedy Center).

The expansion will provide a boost to the center's education work. "The Kennedy Center has the largest arts education program in the country without having any dedicated facilities to serve these growing programs," Kaiser said.

Other features of the project include an outdoor video wall for simulcasting performances, and public gardens.

Rubenstein said that Holl's "wonderful concept will create a strong visual presence that bolsters the center’s prominence as the national cultural center, while maintaining its unique presence among Washington’s iconic landmarks."

The initial plans include exteriors for the pavilions that will incorporate translucent Okalux, glass, and the same Carrara marble used on the Kennedy Center.

A fundraising campaign will be launched to raise the remaining $50 million for the project, along with an additional "$25 million for major programming initiatives in the years ahead." The total costs will be covered by private funding.

Rubenstein, an extraordinary philanthropist who has contributed to National Archives, the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as the Kennedy Center, said that he hoped his $50 million gift would "encourage others to donate to this project."

"As the federal budget tightens, I hope more Americans will consider including nonprofit federal entities in their own philanthropy as well," Rubenstein said.


Posted by Tim Smith at 10:39 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Clef Notes


This part worries me greatly:
“In a nice retro touch, the project will include ... space for outdoor performances on a facility floating on the Potomac...”

I hope they do not plan to spend too much money on *that* part. Anyone who has spent ten minutes in that area will understand that the constant low-altitude air traffic will prevent any real usability for a performance space there.

Right you are -- I always forget that little part. The increase in jet traffic was one reason the old Watergate concerts ran out of steam. I guess I just liked the idea in theory. TIM

It isn’t only the jets. Military helicopters FREQUENTLY fly below the rooftop level of the Kennedy Center right past the proposed site. For an outdoor performance space, this is a *really* bad idea.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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