“Portraits of Courage,” a collection of 66 paintings by former president George W. Bush to honor members of the armed forces, will be the first visual arts exhibition at the Kennedy Center’s new expansion, the Reach.
The exhibition opens Oct. 7, a month after the Reach makes its debut with a 16-day festival of the arts from Sept. 7 to 22. The paintings were first shown at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas in 2017 and have made six stops throughout North America. The Kennedy Center’s presentation, on view in Studio K through Nov. 15, will be their first appearance in Washington.
“ ‘Portraits of Courage’ is a poignant and fitting first exhibition to be hosted in the REACH,” Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said in a statement. “The Kennedy Center is proud to share these works — painted by a living president — that honor the men and women who defend our freedom to explore, celebrate, and create art.”
The exhibition will also showcase the versatility of the arts center’s new space, a mostly underground building featuring rehearsal and lecture halls, education rooms and performance venues. Studio K, an interior room with a blue ceiling, is one of several areas that can host artworks, said Ellery Brown, senior vice president of operations.
“There will be sculpture outside and works inside,” Brown said, adding that a Sam Gilliam piece will be installed next week. “This has been a conversation at the board level about the type of pieces we want to exhibit. The focus will be on American artists, though not exclusively.”
The Kennedy Center has presented temporary exhibitions in its main building, including a recent collaboration with National Geographic and the National Gallery of Art. The visual arts will be a mainstay at the Reach, Brown said.
Free, timed tickets will be required to see the Bush exhibition, which Brown said is expected to draw large crowds. Tickets will be available starting Sept. 3.
Bush’s paintings are the subject of the book “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors,” published in 2017 and featuring the personal stories behind the images. After the Kennedy Center, the exhibition will travel to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.