In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed bipartisan legislation creating a National Cultural Center in the nation’s capital. In November of 1962, President and Mrs. Kennedy launched a $30 million fundraising campaign for the Center’s construction. Former President Eisenhower and his wife Mamie participated in the event which demonstrated the bipartisan support for a world-class center for the performing arts in D. C. In 1963, President Kennedy signed legislation to extend the fundraising deadline for the Center.
Two months after President Kennedy’s assassination, by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on January 23, 1964, the nation’s National Cultural Center was designated as a living memorial to President John F. Kennedy. By this Act, President Kennedy’s devotion to the advancement of the performing arts in the United States was recognized.
The Center’s mission is established in its authorizing statute: present classical and contemporary music, opera, drama, dance, and other performing arts from the United States and other countries; promote and maintain the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as the National Center for the Performing Arts; strive to ensure that the education and outreach programs and policies of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts meet the highest level of excellence and reflect the cultural diversity of the United States; provide facilities for other civic activities at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; and provide within the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts a suitable memorial in honor of the late President. To fulfill the mission as the nation’s cultural center, the Kennedy Center presents world-class art by the artists that define our culture today, delivers powerful arts education opportunities nationwide, and embodies the ideals of President Kennedy in all the Center’s activities provided throughout the living memorial.
Concert Hall (2,465 Capacity)
Renovated in 1997, the Concert Hall is the largest performance space in the Kennedy Center, seating 2,465. This state-of-the-art facility, which originally opened in 1971, sets new standards for accessibility and sound with a high-tech acoustical canopy, accessible locations on every level, and new seating sections (onstage boxes, chorister seats, and parterre seats).
Eisenhower Theater (1,164 Capacity)
The Eisenhower Theater, traditionally home to many of the Kennedy Center's theater and dance performances, reopened in 2008 after a 16-month, $17.9 million renovation. The theater now seats 1,164 people, making it approximately comparable in size to many Broadway theater houses. The theater contains an orchestra pit for 35 musicians that is convertible to a forestage or additional seating space.
Family Theater (324 Capacity)
Unveiled on December 9, 2005, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' new 324-seat Family Theater (formerly the Film Theater) provides a new home for world-class family theater performances for the nation's youth and continues the Kennedy Center's $125 million commitment to performing arts education for adults and children alike.
Opera House (2,364 Capacity)
The Opera House is the second-largest theater in the Center, with 2,364 seats. It was designed for ballet, opera, and musical theater. Over the years, the Opera House has welcomed dozens of the world's great dance and opera companies and has hosted some of the most important artistic events of the last quarter century.
Terrace Theater (490 Capacity)
The Terrace Theater is the busiest theater within The Kennedy Center, hosting up to 180 performances each year ranging from music, jazz, dance, film, lectures, and more. Importantly, it also serves as a primary space through which the Center welcomes local arts groups and its artistic constituents, including WPA, Opera Lafayette, and many more.
Theater Lab (388 Capacity)
For more than 32 years, the Theater Lab has been home to Shear Madness, the hilarious whodunit that lets the audience play armchair detective. The Lab also occasionally hosts free Millennium Stage performances.
Millennium Stage has offered free daily performances since 1999.