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Rubenstein donates $10 million to Kennedy Center

By Jacqueline Trescott

David M. Rubenstein, the still-newish chairman of the Kennedy Center, announced Wednesday that he is donating a "good gift" of $10 million to the center's programs.

Kennedy Center board chairman David Rubenstein photographed at his Carlyle Group office in April. (Ricky Carioti / The Washington Post)

"Essentially I felt as chairman, it would be a good thing to get off to a strong start by making an initial gift of that amount," said Rubenstein, the co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, who was named the center's chairman in May. "I assume I will make additional gifts, and I wanted to have a good gift as my first one."

The gift has some stipulations. A $5 million portion will be allotted to the National Symphony Orchestra as a welcome celebration for new music director Christoph Eschenbach.

"The NSO under Christoph Eschenbach deserves good support," said Rubenstein. "We wanted to make it clear to Christoph that the community and board is really supporting him," Rubenstein said.

The NSO contribution will enable the new music director to build his own signature programs, said Michael Kaiser, the center's president. "This is a welcoming gift for the programming he wants to do," Kaiser said. "Having the resources to do that are great."
Kaiser said Rubenstein offered early on to personally support many aspects of the center's broad arts and education projects.

"I want to enhance the participation in the center by people from all parts of the District. I want people who are younger than me to increase their participation," said Rubenstein, 61. Before he assumed the chairmanship Rubenstein, a member of the center's board since 2004, had given $3.5 million to the center. "Generally the effort and the gift is a way to get some attention that the Kennedy Center is here and doing some vibrant things."

The liveliness that Rubenstein wants the entire region to feel will also be demonstrated in how Rubenstein plans to encourage encourages other donors by arranging more intimate interactions with artists. For instance, he is hosting a dinner for soprano Renee Fleming, and the two of them will talk about her career in a Charlie Rose-style David Frost-style interview. He plans to do the same with Eschenbach at the next board meeting.

The new donation includes $2.5 million to be spent over five years -- $500,000 annually for one project -- moving among the various artistic disciplines. "For this current season, it will be the India Festival, which is the most expensive project we are doing this season," said Kaiser. The India Festival, a three-week event, is scheduled for March 2011 and will likely cost about $6 million, he said.

Each year, $200,000 of the gift will be set aside to support the center's awards and fund-raising events, which include its Spring Gala, the NSO Season Opening Ball, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Finally, $1.5 million components add up to $10M/pdk will support an umbrella of arts education programs for students in grades K-12, that is a national effort of the center.

"We are trying to build the resources to meet the demand," said Kaiser, of the increased education initiatives. In the last few months, the center has received 40 requests for its pilot program in school-based arts education called "Any Given Child." Programs are underway in Sacramento, Calif.; Springfield, Ill.; and Portland, Ore.

As its programs expand, the center has to raise about $71 million from private sources. Its congressional appropriation supports the upkeep of the physical plant. presidential memorial. The center, which has 2,000 shows a year, has a $160 million budget, and has had an operating surplus every year for the last 10 years. Kaiser estimated the surplus for the year that ends Oct. 3 will be $5 million to $7 million.

By Jacqueline Trescott  | September 22, 2010; 10:01 AM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott  | Tags:  kennedy center  
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