The Kennedy Center Previews Its New Addition, The REACH

With construction ongoing but substantially completed, The Kennedy Center recently threw open the doors on May 29, 2019 to its new addition, The REACH. It was a glorious day to take in the swooping pavilions, almost ready landscape, 35 gingko trees (in honor of President John F. Kennedy), and reflecting pools that add their own stunning soothing, cooling features to the famous Kennedy Center presence.

The mission of The REACH is to add an extension to The Kennedy Center for artistic projects and community engagement. As for the name The REACH, in opening remarks, Deborah Rutter, President of The Kennedy Center, said the letters represent Renew, Experience, Activate, Create, and Honor the legacy of Kennedy.

The REACH at The Kennedy Center officially opens with a festival running from September 7-22. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.
The REACH at The Kennedy Center officially opens with a festival running from September 7-22. Image courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

With 100 days until The REACH (formerly the Kennedy Center South Plaza) officially opens with a major and free festival that runs September 7 – 22, 2019, crews were visibly busy putting finishing touches to the exteriors of The REACH, including spot welders on the very special pedestrian walkway that links The Kennedy Center to the Potomac River. The easily walkable connection to the original Kennedy Center building was a delight to behold. One can only dream of how the new space will appear once outdoor art and sculpture are installed from the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Deborah Butterfield, and Joel Shapiro.

Inside the $250 million arts facility, there are ten new spaces of all sizes and dimensions that The REACH will add to the overall Kennedy Center imprint. All but one of the new spaces will have natural lighting–even those built with underground features. The spaces were nearly finished (not yet furnished and other touches) but open for business as artists were visible in various stages of collaboration, creative development, and early rehearsals. The “crinkle concrete” as an architectural feature in various spaces is a wonder not only of appearance but of acoustic-enhancing qualities.

The new spaces have names such as Moonshot, PT-109, Peace Corps, and Justice that honor President John F. Kennedy. There are quotes from President Kennedy throughout The REACH, etched into the glass–quotes such as “Art knows no national boundaries. Genius can speak in any tongue and the entire world will hear it and listen.”  

In her opening remarks before tours in and around The REACH, Rutter made clear that The REACH is more than just a collection of beautiful buildings and landscaping. “The REACH is for all of our communities. With The REACH, we will reach out. I want our full spectrum of the arts festival to have something for every single taste.”

The September 2019 festival has highlights too numerous to mention and more will be added to the schedule. The Festival will include Jazz, Indigenous Cultures, Theater, Electronica/DJ Culture, Classical, Comedy, Dance, and Hip Hop. 

The REACH promises to be a stunning gathering space for all of Washington. And now it’s less than 100 days before it’s officially open. I can’t wait.

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