Next month, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrates its namesake with the opening of “Art and Ideals: President John F. Kennedy” — a new permanent exhibit exploring Kennedy’s presidency and his commitment to the arts.
The exhibit opening crowns the center’s landmark 50th anniversary season, which has looked back at Kennedy’s legacy and examined how his values continue to inform the vision of the nation’s cultural center.
Bringing to life the worlds of culture and politics at a time of tremendous social change, “Art and Ideals” appeals to a wide range of visitors, whether unfamiliar with U.S. history or well-versed in it, whether grade-school level readers or far above, and whether first-time guests or loyal regulars. The first of its scope in Kennedy Center history, this major flagship exhibit will open to the public on September 17.
The exhibit design:
- The 7,500-sq. ft. roof-level JFK Gallery at the heart of the original Edward Durell Stone building has been renovated and repurposed to house the exhibit
- Visitors enter at either end of gallery, through vestibules offering an introduction to the exhibit
The exhibit is divided into four key areas, each exploring a primary theme of Kennedy’s presidency, relating the arts to: 1. Democracy 2. Social Change 3. The White House 4. Culture
- Each area is anchored by archival videos, featuring President Kennedy’s landmark speeches, including:
- Space Race address at Rice University
- Amherst College remarks on public service and the artist’s role in society
- Oval Office report in which he first laid out the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act
- Reflecting his commitment to the arts, the videos also feature historic footage of musicians including Marian Anderson, Harry Belafonte, Pablo Casals, and Frank Sinatra, plus many jazz legends who served as Cold War jazz ambassadors, e.g. Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie
- A range of multimedia features relate Kennedy’s ideals to six broad themes of the Kennedy Center’s ongoing work, spotlighting new initiatives that reflect JFK’s values:
- Uplifting the Artist
- Exporting the Arts
- Creating Social Impact
- Cultural Dialogues
- Arts Accessible to All
- A Cultural Icon
- Encircling the JFK Gallery high above, a wraparound LED frieze displays colorful imagery of the center as well as quotes by President Kennedy. Periodically, the frieze will “take over” the space with an audiovisual excerpt from a JFK speech, immersing visitors in the historic event.
Three interactive features:
Dinner at the White House * Through touchscreen “plates,” visitors learn about prominent cultural figures who attended Kennedy dinners, consider which contemporary guests they might choose to invite today, and discover themes and connections between them.
The Power of Words * Keywords from landmark Kennedy speeches on a large, mirrored wall come together to form sentences as visitors approach. While hearing the quote in Kennedy’s own voice, visitors can see and photograph themselves reflected among his words on the wall.
Dynamic Portraiture * introduces visitors to the historic Kennedy portrait by expressionist painter Elaine de Kooning; using touch-screen technology visitors can create self-portraits inspired by her distinctive brushstrokes and palette. After taking a photo, selecting from a range of styles and colors, and watching the finished painting emerge, each visitor receives a QR code to download the portrait to their smartphone.
Exhibit opening schedule:
Thurs, Sep 8:
11 am: Ceremonial opening, panel discussion & exhibit preview (by invitation only)
6 pm: Press preview followed by cocktails
Fri, Sep 9:
10 am–1 pm: Exclusive press preview
Mon, Sep 12 — Thurs, Sep 15:
School groups and partners preview
Sat, Sep 17:
2 pm: Exhibit public opening and ribbon cutting
“Above all, we are coming to understand that the arts incarnate the creativity of a free people.”
— President John F. Kennedy
Learn more information here: https://www.kennedy-center.org/memorial/jfk-exhibit-art-and-ideals/