New Blood Brings New Programs, Ideas to Kennedy Center, Washington Performing Arts
The recent arrival of new leaders at (the) Washington Performing Arts and the Kennedy Center in the persons of Jennie Bilfield and Deborah F. Rutter saw the prospect of new initiatives and cooperations. Sure enough, that’s what we’ve seen in the new year—in addition to the elimination of the “the” from WPA.
Early this month, both the Kennedy Center and WPA announced the formation of “Shift: A Festival of American Orchestras,” a three-year festival of North American orchestras beginning in the spring of 2017. The project aims to reimagine the innovative “Spring for Music” festival which ended its four-year run in New York in 2014.
In addition, this week the Kennedy Center announced a five-year, $5-million gift from Capital One to fund “Comedy at the Kennedy Center,” which will feature one-night appearances by stellar star comedians like Jay Leno, Kathy Griffin and Whoopi Goldberg.
“Shift” has been awarded an $900,000 grant for the collaboration, with $700,000 earmarked for matching funds for new gifts. The festival proposes to focus on performances, community events, symposia and workshops, along with community outreach components for participating orchestras.
That spirit of collaboration was heralded and promised by both Rutter and Bilfield when they took on their duties as president of the Kennedy Center and president and CEO of WPA, respectively.
“We are pleased to collaborate with Washington Performing Arts and celebrate the vibrancy and potency of orchestras in a festival setting,” Rutter said. “The title of the festival, ‘Shift,’ recognizes the dynamic, evolving work and role of orchestras in the 21st century and underscores our mission to play a role in shifting pre-conceived notions about orchestras,” Bilfield said. “The Kennedy Center and Washington Performing Arts share an abiding belief that the nation’s capital is the ideal place to showcase and honor high-impact, imaginative work—on and off the stage— our orchestras are developing for and with their audiences. How exciting for D.C. to showcase this creativity and leadership in spaces around the city”
The original “Spring for Music” program in New York was a festival held at Carnegie Hall from 2011 to 2014. It featured more than 25 orchestras performing more than 25 concerts.
“Comedy at the Kennedy Center,” which includes the annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, features a new Signature Comedy Series, beginning with Leno on April 8. Kathy Griffin will appear at the Kennedy Center June 20, and Goldberg will perform July 17.
“We are grateful for the generosity of Capital One in partnering with us to bring more laughter to the Greater Washington community as well as national audiences,” Rutter said. “We look forward to continuing to raise the profile and stature of comedy at the Kennedy Center and beyond.”