Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

There is one event that many Philadelphians point to as a transformative moment in Center City’s turnaround: the opening of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in December 2001.

More than eight years earlier, Sidney Kimmel realized the potential the Center could have, not only for the City’s performing arts, but as the catalyst it has become for an economic rebirth and eventual residential boom downtown.

The Foundation’s commitment was the Center’s first – and it continued with gifts over the last two decades totaling nearly $63 million. Today, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts attracts more than a million people a year to an impressive range of events and programs. Ed Rendell, former mayor of Philadelphia and governor of Pennsylvania, credits the Center for leading Center City’s turnaround, spurring development, new businesses, job creation, and a triumphant revival of residential life. He also credits Kimmel for the vision and business acumen that convinced others that the venture would show a huge return on investment. And that it has.

Anne Ewers, the Kimmel Center’s president and CEO, said Sidney Kimmel’s contributions – of both money and strategy – have been key all along the way: “His support is absolutely the catapult not just to the building of this performing arts center, but to its stability, growth, and strength at every turn. At every defining moment, Sidney is there with incredible vision for what his participation could mean.”

As the largest donor to the Center, Kimmel’s gifts have financed construction, eliminated debt, advanced the endowment, and, in keeping with his interest in making the arts accessible to all, paid for free performances, education programs for children, and community outreach.

Once, when Ewers received a surprise email from a grateful audience member, calling the Kimmel Center “a remedy for anyone engaged in a stressful environment,” she thought of the many, many people the Center serves – and she thought of its namesake.

“Sidney likes the idea that, with so much going on at our campus, on the plaza, in the theaters, with the community, that there is something for everyone,” she said. “This note reminded us of the importance of that vision.”