Paying it forward

(Image via ArtInfo.com)

(Image via ArtInfo.com)

Media megastar and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey will donate $12 million to support the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Combined with a $1 million gift in 2007, this brings Winfrey’s total contribution to $13 million, the museum’s largest donation to date. Winfrey, chairman and CEO of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, has been a member of the museum’s advisory council since 2004.

In recognition of her generous gift, the museum’s theater will be named the Oprah Winfrey Theater. The 350-seat theater will be a forum for performers, artists, educators, scholars, authors, musicians, filmmakers and opinion leaders in programs that will enable audiences to gain a broader understanding of how African American history and culture shape and enrich the country and the world.

“At its heart, the National Museum of African American History and Culture is a showcase for a richer, fuller picture of the American experience,” said Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough. “The new theater’s designation could not be more fitting, as Ms. Winfrey’s name is synonymous with generosity, education, excellence and the arts.”

Winfrey’s gift marks a significant milestone in the museum’s fundraising campaign. Design, construction and exhibitions are expected to cost $500 million, half provided by congressional funding and the remainder raised by the museum. Currently under construction on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument, the 19th Smithsonian museum is expected to open in late 2015.

“We are inspired and profoundly grateful for Ms. Winfrey’s generosity at this important time,” said Lonnie G. Bunch III, founding director of the museum. “Her gifts will forever be associated with harnessing the power of art and creative expression to build bridges between cultures and enrich people’s lives. Programming at the Oprah Winfrey Theater will mirror the museum’s commitment to use African American history and culture as a lens to see what it means to be an American and to help all Americans remember.”

“I am so proud of African American history and its contributions to our nation as a whole,” said Winfrey. “I am deeply appreciative of those who paved the path for me and all who follow in their footsteps. By investing in this museum, I want to help ensure that we both honor and preserve our culture and history, so that the stories of who we are will live on for generations to come.”

Winfrey is chairman and CEO of OWN, which develops original programming for TV and digital platforms. She is the founder ofO, The Oprah Magazine and a channel on SiriusXM satellite radio. In addition, Winfrey is a leading philanthropist who has awarded hundreds of grants through her private philanthropy,The Oprah Winfrey Foundation.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture under construction. (Photo by Michael Barnes)

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture under construction. (Photo by Michael Barnes)


Posted: 13 June 2013
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The Torch relies on contributions from the entire Smithsonian community.