The fourth and final expansion of the Skirball Cultural Center will be inaugurated on 19 October, 2013, marking the completion of a 30-year campus plan for one of the nation’s leading Jewish cultural institutions. The project represents the fulfillment of a shared vision between Uri D. Herscher, Skirball Founding President and CEO; the late philanthropist Jack H. Skirball (1896-1985); and architect Moshe Safdie, who together stood at the base of a barren hill in Los Angeles three decades ago and envisioned a place of meeting inspired by the parallels between Jewish values and American democratic ideals.
The adjoining new buildings, Herscher Hall and Guerin Pavilion, will complete the Skirball’s 15-acre campus, which currently encompasses museum galleries and performance spaces, conference and event facilities, classrooms, courtyards, and gardens. The expansion will accommodate growing public demand for the institution’s resources by creating a new large-scale venue for its educational, cultural, civic, and community functions.
Open to the public since 1996, the Skirball Cultural Center was the first Jewish cultural institution in the United States to define itself by its commitment to pluralism, inclusivity, and cross-cultural exchange. Its extensive outreach within and beyond the Jewish community informs the Skirball’s mission and has distinguished the institution throughout its history. Home to one of the largest and most significant collections of Judaica in the world, the Skirball was founded on a new cultural model that expanded programming beyond museum exhibitions to include the performing, media, and literary arts as a way to deepen visitor engagement.
Today, the Skirball is a vital fixture of Southern California’s cultural landscape, serving a multigenerational and diverse audience of more than 600,000 visitors annually, among them 80,000 schoolchildren. Designed to celebrate ancestral Jewish values - among them justice, equality, freedom, hospitality, and respect for human dignity - as relevant to contemporary American life, the Skirball’s public offerings include permanent and changing exhibitions, music, film, theatre, dance, lectures, adult education, seminars and conferences, and programs for families, schools, and teachers.
The new 80,000 sq ft complex includes classrooms, meeting rooms, gardens, and a grand hall accommodating up to 1,200. Reflecting the Skirball’s mission to bring individuals, families, and communities together, Herscher Hall and Guerin Pavilion will confirm the Skirball as a premier Los Angeles venue for large-scale convenings, such as conferences, symposia, galas, performances, classes, and social events. The size and flexibility of these spaces will also support new programming strategies at the Skirball - in particular, public forums on themes relating to democracy and civic engagement, to be developed in partnership with leading organizations whose purposes are communal in nature.