One new organization brings together two familiar cultural institutions

Jessica Griffin

There is big news on the horizon for two notable Philly organizations—or now actually, just one. 

According to a release, The Kimmel Center and The Philadelphia Orchestra just recently announced that the two organizations are joining forces to form a new parent company, The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc. 

The new organization will be led by Matías Tarnopolsky as president and CEO, but the decision came from both Tarnopolsky and the Kimmel Center president and CEO since 2007, Anne Ewers.

Kimmel Center Cultural Campus

“When COVID kept going on, I realized that change was inevitable and maybe we needed to do something that was transformational with change,” says Ewers. “Matías is a treasured friend and colleague and so I approached him and said, ‘Hey, can we take the opportunity of the crisis and do something? Is there a way to improve the relationship between our organizations, but also lift up the whole arts ecosystem, make it more equitable and more vibrant?’ So that began our conversations.”

Those initial conversations led to about 6 weeks with a consultant discussing plans and financial analysis. Once a basis was set, the executive committee and board members were brought in. The plan was met with enthusiasm on all ends. 

“Ultimately, this is about great trust, friendship and dozens of conversations between Anne and I,” says Tarnopolsky. “But really we want to know: How can we better serve and how can we better connect arts in Philadelphia? As a result, there’s a deepening in our partnership that has already yielded wonderful results. We decided because of the COVID moment, we needed realize now our commitment to helping Philadelphia thrive on the other side of this.” 

Under the new parent company, audience members can expect opportunities for world-class, wide-ranging performances by a diverse and inclusive roster of artists and companies in an atmosphere where all feel welcome. Ewers mentioned there would also be free performances by BIPOC artists in the plaza supporting those efforts so that everyone can experience them.

“What Anne and I are deeply, deeply committed too for this is that audiences [see] the ever great creativity and collaboration around the campus. From the stages to the public areas, there is a much more cohesive approach that is collaborative. You’ll begin to see [more] as the partnership gets formalized and matures,” continues Tarnopolsky.

With the new parent company, strengths from two organizations are merging into one to showcase more creativity and tenacity for advancing the arts than ever before upon the Avenue. Tarnopolsky and Ewers both believe that it’s the city’s organizations of culture, education and business that are going to be needing the recovery. The duo also said the more that our communities take joy and come together to enjoy the breadth of music and dance theater that can be offered, the better it can be for everyone. 

Ewers will continue as president and CEO of the Kimmel Center through the formation of the new parent organization, but she reached a decision in 2019 to take a step back. “I’m approaching my 70th birthday,” Ewers said. “And in December 2019, I informed our Kimmel Center Board Chair Michael Zisman that I planned to retire at the end of my current contract.”

But with their friendship, having someone she trusted to step in and oversee everything came easily for Ewers when thinking of Tarnopolsky, and his resume also fits the bill and then some. The release states Tarnopolsky joined The Philadelphia Orchestra in August 2018. During his tenure, Tarnopolsky—working in partnership with Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra—helped to secure the largest gift in the Orchestra’s history, launched a visionary free ticket program for the School District of Philadelphia, strengthened the Orchestra’s historic and deep ties with China through new partnerships, and negotiated an extraordinary early contract with the musicians to provide a stable and secure financial future. 

“I think audiences will also see a clearer message and more collaborative programming,” says Tarnopolsky. “For Anne and I, we can have conversations with these ideas beginning to take root, and that’s just incredibly rewarding and enriching for everyone involved, especially the audience.” 

The re-openings on the Avenue of the Arts is not just a kickstart on the creative front, but on the economic one as well. A past release stated that a 2019 study by Econsult Solutions, Inc. found each dollar spent on a ticket generates $12 in economic activity for area businesses such as restaurants, retailers, and hoteliers. Reopening the Kimmel alone—which is happening after Labor Day—would help the region’s economy by restoring 2,380 jobs, and $5.3-million in monthly household income. 

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But it’s the support from the community that made this possible. 

“We want to thank the great supporters who helped both of their organizations manage through the challenge of COVID. I think our ability to move forward is because of your support. We hope people continue to support the new entity and to attend as often as they can,” says Ewers. 

“The support for the arts in Philadelphia is something that this community does in exemplary fashion and we’re incredibly grateful,” continues Tarnopolsky. “For me, it is just an incredibly inspiring and exciting moment. The pandemic has not been characterized by much joy and it’s a moment of great joy to be able to be coming back in a safe, inspiring way. To connect to the audiences of Philadelphia is just the most energizing thing for the Philadelphia Orchestra to really feel even more at home in the Kimmel Center. It just deepens our connection to Philadelphia.”

According to a release, the finalization of this transaction is subject to obtaining all necessary regulatory approvals. Upon completion, each organization, and their current Boards of Directors, will remain intact as subsidiaries of the parent organization. The Board of Directors of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc. will be drawn equally from existing boards of The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Kimmel Center. Philadelphia Orchestra Board Chair Ralph Muller and Kimmel Center Board Chair Michael Zisman will serve as co-chairs of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center, Inc.

For more information visit  kimmelculturalcampus.org and philorch.org

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