Skirball Cultural Center
The Skirball Cultural Center is an educational institution in Los Angeles, California devoted to sustaining Jewish heritage and American democratic ideals. Open to the public since 1996, the Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity in American life. The Center, named after philanthropist-couple Jack Skirball and Audrey Skirball-Kenis, features a museum with regularly changing exhibitions, film events, music and theater performances, comedy, family, literary and cultural programs.
The campus includes a museum, a performing arts center, conference halls, classrooms, libraries, courtyards, gardens, and a café. In its first decade, the Center attracted nearly five million visitors, becoming one of the world's major Jewish cultural institutions.
The Skirball Museum predates the Skirball Cultural Center, having been established in 1972 at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in L.A. The Museum moved into the Skirball Cultural Center after the center's completion. The Skirball’s core exhibition, Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America, traces the history, experiences and values of Jews over 4,000 years. Featuring changing displays of works from the Skirball’s museum collection, the exhibition’s galleries contain multimedia installations, rare artifacts, historical documents and photographs, works of fine art, interactive computer stations and sound recordings that lead visitors on the Jewish people’s journey, culminating with their experiences in the United States. Anchored by the theme of retaining one’s heritage while adapting to life in America, this narrative resonates with a remarkable number of Skirball visitors, many of whom are not Jewish.
Comprising more than 30,000 objects, the Skirball’s museum collection includes archaeological artifacts from biblical and later historical periods; Jewish ceremonial objects from countries all over the globe; an extensive group of Old World Jewish objects; the Project Americana collection, comprising objects that document the “everyday life of ordinary people” in the United States since the 1850s; and works of fine art in a variety of media.
Designed by Israeli-born architect Moshe Safdie, the campus of the Skirball Cultural Center is nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains and has been admired for its intimate scale and sensitivity to the natural environment. Among Safdie’s recent and current civic, cultural and educational commissions are: the headquarters of the United States Institute of Peace, Washington, DC; Exploration Place, Wichita, KS; Eleanor Roosevelt College at the University of California, San Diego; the federal courthouses in Springfield, MA, and Mobile, AL; the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, MO; as well as the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Center in Tel Aviv, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR. During his career, Safdie has taught at Harvard, McGill and Yale Universities, as well as several Israeli universities.
Noah's Ark at the Skirball
Noah’s Ark at the Skirball, a children’s and family destination designed for generations to enjoy together, opened to the public in June 2007 and will remain on view permanently. Inspired by the ancient flood story of Noah’s Ark, this indoor and outdoor attraction offers a multi-sensory, interactive experience. Visitors board a gigantic wooden ark to play, climb, build and collaborate alongside handcrafted, fanciful animals—from life-sized elephants and giraffes to snow leopards, flamingos and iguanas. Together families imagine taking an ark voyage from stormy world to dry land and delight in working with one another for a brighter, more hopeful future.
The Noah’s Ark galleries were designed by Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects of Seattle. Partner Jim Olson was the lead designer of the ark and Principal Alan Maskin designed the interactive exhibits and provided art direction for the project, including the design of nearly 300 animals. Brooklyn-based designer/puppeteer Chris M. Green created additional life-sized animals, many of them puppets to be operated by gallery staff. Outdoors, the Noah’s Ark experience includes a rainbow mist installation developed by Moshe Safdie, the architect of the Skirball Cultural Center, in partnership with environmental artist Ned Kahn.
Skirball Public Programs
The Skirball presents a diverse range of music, theater, poetry, literary, film and other performing arts. Some of the most important contemporary minds—award-winning artists, philosophers, poets, novelists, filmmakers, critics, public leaders, entertainers and playwrights—engage enthusiastic audiences at the Skirball. The Skirball’s music and dance programs are considered vanguard and among the best in the western United States. The free summer Sunset Concerts series attracts nearly 1,000 visitors each week.
Skirball as Educator
The Skirball annually serves approximately 60,000 schoolchildren and teachers representing virtually every religious and ethnic background in Southern California. The Skirball’s school outreach programs in cultural history and performing arts draw visitors from all over the region. The family-oriented discovery center, which includes a simulated dig site and field tent, offers a look at the archaeology of ancient Israel and the Near East. Family programs take place regularly and attract new and returning visitors for entertainment and education. Highlights include toddler classes, children’s concerts, art and music workshops, archaeological dig workshops, readings, summer camps and the annual Hanukkah Family Festival. The Learning for Life department offers adult education courses in comparative religion and culture, art, creative writing, literature and the American Jewish experience.
Skirball Members and Supporters
The Skirball accomplishes its mission thanks to the generosity and active participation of thousands of individuals from all walks of life across the United States and abroad, including a dedicated corps of more than 7,000 members, volunteers and docents; distinguished foundations and corporations; and governmental funding agencies. These philanthropic supporters are passionate about the positive and essential force of the Skirball’s mission—to bring people together in positive and hopeful engagement and to change lives by making meaningful connections across generations, communities, histories, ideas and forms of creative expression.
- Cinema's Legacy at the Skirball, AFI
- Skirball Foundation pledges $2 million for new chair, January 17, 2003
- Lori Starr named Director, Skirball Museum
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