The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture on Tuesday announced that Oprah Winfrey will donate $12 million to support the capital campaign of the new museum. In recognition of her gift, the museum’s theater will be named the Oprah Winfrey Theater.
Combined with her $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.
“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.”
One of the largest spaces in the museum, the 350-seat theater will be a forum in the nation’s capital for performers, artists, educators, scholars, authors, musicians, filmmakers and opinion leaders. The theater’s programs will enable audiences to gain a broader understanding of how African-American history and culture shape and enrich the country and the world.
The Smithsonian noted that Winfrey’s gift marks a significant milestone in the museum’s fundraising campaign. Design, construction and exhibitions are expected to cost $500 million, half of which will be 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.”
Winfrey is chairman and CEO of the OWN television network, the founder of “O, 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.
“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 Oprah Winfrey Theater will bring untold stories alive through films, live performances, artistic expression and public dialogue. The new theater’s designation could not be more fitting, as Ms. Winfrey’s name is synonymous with generosity, education, excellence and the arts.”