Truly a remarkable institution dedicated for the performing arts, the Kennedy Center is a popular Washington D.C. landmark whose stage have featured several of the world?s most acclaimed performers. For four decades, the Kennedy Center has served as the heart of Washington D.C.?s cultural and arts sphere since it opened in 1971. It is located on a 17-acre property in close proximity to the Potomac River and is currently the most used and highly visited performing arts facility in the United States.
Obviously, the Kennedy Center is a living structure in tribute to assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy. However, it was former President Dwight Eisenhower who put forward the idea to establish a venue to host classical and modern performances and that it should be privately funded to be self-sustaining. Nevertheless, it was President Kennedy who spearheaded the gathering of funds for the facility during his term which is the reason that it was named after him. It was former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson who did the ceremonial first-shovel on 1964 for the facility?s groundbreaking.
Before his demise, Kennedy also designated Roger L. Stevens as the pioneering chairman of the center. Stevens served as Kennedy Center?s chairman for over three decades and he was instrumental in paving the way to how the center is known today. And to pay homage to the person who gave him the much-coveted position, Stevens made sure that the very first performance held at the center was a requiem mass in 1971 for JFK which was conducted and written by revered New York Philharmonic head, Leonard Bernstein. The performance was well-attended with 2,200 witnessing the premier act.
The architecture of the Kennedy Center is fitting to the calibre of performances that it hosts, designed by Edward Durrell Stone. In total, the center measures 300 feet wide x 630 feet long x 100 feet high. Inside, guests will be welcomed by a majestic and cavernous grand foyer that serves as the highlight of the center. The foyer is rich-looking with its red carpeting and 16 elaborate hand-blown Orrefors chandeliers which was a gift from Sweden.
There are three major concert halls in the venue: the Opera House which is also the main theatre, the Eisenhower theatre and the Concert Hall. The Opera House can accommodate 2,300 guests and is heavily adorned with red velvet. It was renovated in 2004 and is currently the headquarters of the Washington National Opera and the setting for the yearly Kennedy Center Honors event. The Concert Hall on the other hand has a seating capacity of 2,400 and is patterned after traditional European concert venues and boasts of a 2,000-pipe organ. Lastly, the Eisenhower Theatre is made for the more intimate performances, with a smaller capacity of 1,200 and is a favored venue for ballets and small musicals. There are other venues within the Kennedy Center which include the KC Jazz Club, the Millennium Stage, the Theatre Lab, the Terrace Theatre and the Family Theatre.
Kennedy Center?s terrace overlooks the Potomac River which offers a scenic lounging place for guests.