Under a bright, perfect-weather-for-DC day, crowds, volunteers, donors and celebs gathered to celebrate a new addition to a Washington landmark. The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts’ The REACH opened on September 7th to the public with a 16 day festival that includes music, arts education sessions, dance classes, and the Kennedy Center’s most ambitious community engagement to date.
This is the first expansion to the Kennedy Center since its inauguration in 1971, with a mission of embracing new audiences and artistic risks. The REACH intends to be a space for modern artistic pursuits, and dive into where art has changed and will evolve further.
For the next two weeks, the REACH will be hosting over 400 free events. Although weekend events are filling up fast, weekday sessions are still available. Want to take an advanced ballet class with Tyler Peck, an award winning principal dancer with the New York City Ballet? Want to bump shoulders with performers like Angelique Kidjo or Jason Moran? Want to watch The Muppets outside? Sitting on grass? The Festival is filled with family-friendly events and spaces, with activity centers filled with technologically creative play areas and a Virtual Reality Lounge space.
Or guests can simply come in to experience the multiple venues and rehearsal spaces the REACH has to offer. The Festival is offering timed passes for the different events, with a schedule that includes morning and afternoon sessions. The events are all free throughout the Festival.
The REACH is part of the Kennedy Center’s mission to engage with the city and the nation as a whole. As David Rubenstein, Chairman of the Board of Trustees) said in opening ceremony remarks, the REACH is intended to “Connect with the community, involve the community, engage people, have the come in during the day, learn more about performing arts, listen to concerts outside, watch what’s going on inside from the outside.”
“Central to our plan for this was to share all aspects of the arts and to welcome all who want to participate,” Deborah F. Rutter, Kennedy Center president, mentioned in her remarks.
The Festival event was launched with a “Re-Declaration of Creative Independence,” with a performed choral poem, written by Vice President and Artistic Director of Social Impact, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and performed with NPR’s Rachel Martin, actors Tatiana Chavez and Alfre Woodard, and political commentator David Brooks. The poem sought to to declare art as a basic truth for people, artists as being right when creativity remains within reach.
“The name of the building is not “stay”. It’s not called “the sit”. Or the “kick back and watch”.
It is called the REACH.
And WE must do so.
Like our namesake.
Our namesake says:
I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full
recognition of the place of the artist.”
Steven Holl Architects, the firm behind the design for the expansion, embraced the vision of openness in the REACH’s design. Natural sunlight is the most notable feature for the three buildings. The performance and rehearsal spaces all had viewing areas outside of the rooms themselves, with some exceptions. The green spaces (and it takes you by surprise how much green there is) embrace openness, and clear sight-lines of the monuments in the DC and the Potomac so close by.
The architects also maintained the integrity of the Kennedy Center’s spirit in honoring the 35th president and his dedication to the arts. President John F. Kennedy’s quotes are etched along the walls to the new buildings. Thirty-five trees border one edge of the 130,000 square foot area of green space and public gardens.
For current Kennedy Center fans, the REACH will be a wonderful expansion to a place they already cherish. For new audiences, whether it be to catch an outdoor film, catch a multi-media musical experience, or simply to relax among the gardens overlooking the river, there will be a space welcoming them as well.
The REACH will eventually have its own entrance, but for the Festival, access will be through The Kennedy Center.