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The Reach

What does the Kennedy Center have in common with your annual event? More than you think.


The Kennedy Center, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary soon, is a well-loved institution and respected by a core group of people—typically Baby Boomers. The building is iconic, monolithic, and, for many, quite intimidating. Not only is the Kennedy Center our nation’s presidential memorial to JFK, it is also the nation’s cultural center. To top it off, it is widely known as a performing arts center.


Many people go to the Kennedy Center to watch a performance, and while there is some sense of community there, it mostly offers a solitary, individual, and passive immersion in a specific art form.


Sound familiar? Most association and society annual meetings are just that—performances hosted by the organization in a large convention center or hotel ballroom with a program designed to educate and inform.


Enter The Reach.


The Reach is the new expansion of the Kennedy Center that will be a campus comprised of learning labs, accessible art, open spaces, camps, readings, rehearsals, and local art forms, all wrapped in an energized, active space. Think of it as the opposite of the Kennedy Center we all know. What a revolutionary idea.


See the parallel? Many annual events have become the equivalent of the iconic Kennedy Center. And what your future “patrons” are looking for is your version of The Reach—a fresh, open, welcoming, and diverse environment filled with new ideas and creative learning all in a campus that invites new generations that never would have set foot in the Kennedy Center.


The Reach will open in September 2019. I recently had the good fortune of enjoying a behind-the-scenes, hard-hat tour followed by a dinner with Deborah Rutter, President of the Kennedy Center. She shared her perspective on the future of this great American institution, and she summed it up by saying the future is about experiences and not simply performances.


Who is in charge of renovating your annual event and charting a new course for the future? The beauty of what the Kennedy Center has done is to preserve the best of this national treasure and add a brand-new campus for the next generation.


Not a bad concept to emulate.