Kennedy Center’s ‘If These Halls Could Talk.’ (Photo: Margot Schulman)
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, one of the nation’s few living memorials, today opened If These Halls Could Talk: Celebrating the Kennedy Center at 50, a yearlong free exhibit running from September 2021 to September 2022 in celebration of its Golden Anniversary.
Featuring five distinctive sections across the Center’s campus, the immersive exhibit captures the story of the Center’s five decades of rich history told through the voices and memories of the leaders, staff, artists, donors, audiences, and larger community that make it a “living” memorial.
The Center’s Archives serves as the source and inspiration for these installations and includes a range of dynamic content, in person and online, from photos to iconic posters and oral histories. Curated by the Center’s International Programming department, this exhibit also publicly launches the Kennedy Center Archives as a resource for preserving and providing access to the Kennedy Center’s legacy.
“As we commence our 50th Anniversary year, it is not lost on us that from the origins of the National Cultural Center to where we are today, the Center stands upon the shoulders of those that have come before us,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. “These halls encompass all of our unique stories past, present, and future, that make this building a true living memorial, creating an indelible mark on the collective human spirit. We are thrilled to be able to share with you a peek into the vibrant history of what has happened in these halls and theaters (and behind the scenes) to make the Center what it is today. ”
In addition, in honor of the 50th Anniversary, the Center invited young artists ages 14–26 living in the United States to reflect on the legacy of John F. Kennedy by submitting all-original, creative portraits of JFK using as inspiration one of the ideals often ascribed to him—Service, Justice, Freedom, Courage, or Gratitude.
Judged by a panel of visual arts professionals from across the country and a team of Kennedy Center representatives, 10 finalists were selected and are displayed in the Hall of States and the REACH from September 2021 through June 2022 as well as in a digital gallery on the Center’s website. The two winning portraits—Spotlight by Jinglin Jingan from McLean, Virginia and Take Us to the Stars by Mary McClure from Niwot, Colorado—were awarded a $500 prize. In addition, interviews with the two winners will run on video monitors in the Hall of States.
“If these halls could talk, there would be a cacophony of joyous sound heard around the world from all of the artists and people who have helped to keep the heart beating of this beloved national center for the performing arts. Numerous artists have graced our stages, many presidents, diplomats, and even royalty have walked through our doors. It has been 50 extraordinary years, reflecting the best of the arts and culture in the Washington metropolitan region and around the world,” stated Alicia Adams, Vice President of Dance and International Programming. “We have transformed the Center into a giant canvas. Visitors walking through the REACH grounds, Grand Foyer, and theater lobbies will have the chance to appreciate approximately 130 photos highlighting these remarkable past five decades.”
Also this month, the Center’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Concert officially kicks off the golden anniversary season on September 14 in the Concert Hall, and will be broadcast nationally on October 1 on PBS. Echoing “An American Pageant of the Arts,” the 1962 telecast for the National Cultural Center hosted by Leonard Bernstein, this special celebration will be hosted by six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald with special guests Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and Rose Kennedy Schlossberg, feature the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), and include a star-studded cast.
My KC Stories
Hall of States and Hall of Nations
A special series of video interviews recounting the history of the Center through the memories and voices of staff past and present, artists, and artistic community that have made the Center a living memorial.
In addition, the community is invited to share a memory of their experience at the Kennedy Center over the past 50 years through social media with #KenCen50th and #KenCenStories.
Archives on the Potomac
The REACH campus
In an outdoor display on the REACH campus, walk through decades of images that outline the relationship between the Kennedy Center, the land, and the river.
50…It’s in the Air
Hall of States and Hall of Nations
Suspended from the ceiling in the Hall of States and Hall of Nations in the form of a giant 50 are 630 iconic and original posters representing five decades of performances that have graced the Center’s stages …from MASS to Wicked. A video interview with two of the designers with work on display, Broadway poster icon Frank “Fraver” Verlizzo and Kennedy Center Advertising Creative Director Scott Bushnell, will run in both Halls.
In the Spotlight
The lobbies of the Eisenhower Theater, Opera House, and Concert Hall form a giant scrapbook of more than 100 images of significant performances that have graced the Center’s stages over five decades, from 1971 through today. The theater entrance ramps display performance highlights from the Millennium Stage, Terrace Theater, Grand Foyer, and more.
JFK Creative Portraits
Hall of States and the REACH Welcome Pavilion
As part of If These Halls Could Talk exhibit, the Kennedy Center invited young artists ages 14–26 living in the United States to reflect on the legacy of John F. Kennedy by submitting an all-original, creative portrait of our namesake. Artists were asked to use one of President Kennedy’s ideals of Service, Justice, Freedom, Courage, or Gratitude as inspiration for their portrait of JFK.
Judged by a panel of professional visual artists from across the country looking for a high level of skill, expression of creativity, and reflection of President Kennedy’s legacy and ideals, 10 finalists were selected and are displayed in a digital gallery on the Center’s website. The two winning portraits Spotlight by Jinglin Jingan from McLean, Virginia and Take Us to the Stars by Mary McClure from Niwot, Colorado have been chosen by a team of Kennedy Center representatives to be displayed in the Hall of States from September 2021 through June 2022 and the selected artists are awarded a $500 prize. In addition, interviews with the two winners will run on video monitors in the Hall of States.