John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Opens

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (on the building itself called the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts, and commonly referred to as the Kennedy Center) is a performing arts center located on the Potomac River, adjacent to the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. The Center, which opened on September 8, 1971, produces and presents theater, dance, ballet, orchestral, chamber, jazz, popular, and folk music, and multi-media performances for all ages.

It is the nation’s busiest performing arts facility and annually hosts approximately 2,000 performances for audiences totaling nearly two million; Center-related touring productions, television, and radio broadcasts welcome 20 million more. Now in its 38th season, the Center presents the greatest examples of music, dance, and theater; supports artists in the creation of new work; and serves the nation as leader in arts education. With its artistic affiliate, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Center’s achievements as a commissioner, producer, and nurturer of developing artists have resulted in over 200 theatrical productions, dozens of new ballets, operas, and musical works.

It represents a public-private partnership, since it is both the nation's living memorial to President John F. Kennedy and the "national center for the performing arts", which includes educational and outreach initiatives, almost entirely paid for through ticket sales and gifts from individuals, corporations, and private foundations.

Designed by architect Edward Durrell Stone, it was built by Philadelphia contractor John McShain and is administered by a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution. It receives federal funding each year to pay for the maintenance and operation of the building.

The Kennedy Center, located on the banks of the Potomac River near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., opened to the public in September 1971. But its roots date back to 1958, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed bipartisan legislation creating a National Cultural Center. To honor Eisenhower's vision for such a facility, one of the Kennedy Center's theaters is named for him.