In 2001, in the middle of December, 40,000 Philadelphians flocked to the Avenue of the Arts for the grand opening of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. They wanted to see for themselves what many had criticized and mocked. What had Sidney Kimmel’s $35 million created on this nondescript piece of real estate in the heart of Center City?
What Kimmel, 83, built has transformed Philadelphia’s performing arts community. His pioneering vision was correct. Kimmel believed that if he built it, they would come. And they did.
The center is now the hub of Philadelphia’s arts scene and home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Philadanco, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and American Theater Arts for Youth. Thousands of visiting musicians, dancers, actors and lecturers have appeared on the Kimmel Center’s stages. Millions of patrons have sat in its seats — and in those elsewhere in the city that Kimmel has sponsored.
“Sidney Kimmel’s investment in Philadelphia culture and history has been an economic engine for the region,” says Meryl Levitz, president/ CEO of Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. “With a performing arts center and a reinvented Independence Mall, he has escorted Philadelphia into new territory as a modern, must-see destination. His generosity, combined with others in our community, has given Philadelphia three incredible new buildings — the Kimmel Center, the National Constitution Center and the National Museum of American Jewish History — filled with programs to inspire us and reasons to be proud. Now, Philadelphia is on the go-to list for the 37 million people who visit each year.”