The Kennedy Center is America’s busiest performing arts center, and a living memorial to John F. Kennedy, who lead fundraising efforts while he was President of the Unied States. Its origins date back to 1958, when President Eisenhower signed a bill creating a National Cultural Center. The Kennedy Center opened its doors on September 8, 1971, with the premiere of a Requiem Mass for Kennedy by Leonard Bernstein. Since then the facility has hosted premiere performing arts ensembles from all over the world, and been the site of numerous premieres of orchestral and chamber music, theater, and dance.
The National Symphony Orchestra has presented its concert season here every year since the Center’s opening. Other notable resident organizations include the Washington National Opera, Washington Ballet, and the Choral Arts Society of Washington. The Center’s many performing facilities include the Concert Hall (performing home of the NSO), Eisenhower Theater, Family Theater, Opera House, Terrace Theater, and KC Jazz Club.
In the grand Hall of States and Hall of Nations, respectively, are displayed the flags of every U.S. state and territory (plus the District of Columbia), and every nation with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations. That reflects the role that the center plays as an international stage for the arts, featuring the best music, theater, dance, opera, and visual arts that the world has to offer.
Kennedy Center Art Information
- Venues: The Kennedy Center encompasses several performance venues, including the Opera House, Concert Hall, Eisenhower Theater, Family Theater, Terrace Theater, Theater Lab, Millennium Stage, and Jazz Club
- Public Transportation: Very good (easily accessible via bus or Metro, with free shuttle service between Metro stop and the Kennedy Center)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Performances/Programs: The Kennedy Center presents more than 2,000 performances each year, consisting of plays, musicals, dance, classical, chamber, jazz, pop, folk music, family and children’s shows, multimedia performances, and more. Resident companies at the Center include the National Symphony Orchestra, Washington National Opera, Washington Ballet, and the American College Theater Festival. Additionally, hundreds of free performances are offered every year. The Millennium Stage has free performances every evening at 6 p.m.
- Ticket Prices: Vary based on program. Specially Priced Tickets or SPTs (tickets priced at a 50% discount) are offered for students (elementary through grad school), seniors, military, people on fixed incomes (less than $9,800 a year), and people with permanent disabilities. Standing-room tickets are available for shows at the Opera House, Eisenhower Theater, and Terrace Theater when the performance is sold out. Shows are also available on Goldstar.com
- Group Discounts: Discounts are available for groups of 15–20 or more
- Subscriptions: Several subscription packages available. See website for more details
- Membership: Kennedy Center membership begins at $60, with benefits including a 10% gift-shop discount and discounts to Performance Plus events
- Educational/Community Outreach: The Kennedy Center has numerous educational initiatives, among them professional development opportunities for teachers, performances for students, and partnerships with D.C. schools.