As part of an ongoing push to add hip-hop into its repertoire, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts recently appointed its first-ever director of hip-hop culture and contemporary music.
Simone Ecclestone, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; first-ever, Director of Hip-Hop Culture and Contemporary Music.
Simone Ecclestone, currently director of programming at Harlem Stage in New York, will take up the Kennedy Center position on March 13.
Her new duties will include helming a commitment to hip-hop culture at the Kennedy Center. She will lead contemporary music programming that touches several genres including, Latin music, rhythm and blues, soul, folk, and world music.
Ecclestone will also work within the center’s artistic and educational areas to maximize impact and connectivity. Those efforts will include community engagement, outreach to local schools and to the National Symphony Orchestra.
In a statement, Ecclestone said the Kennedy Center’s creation of a platform for hip-hop is deeply significant. She said hip-hop is the expression of creative genius across various disciplines.
“It is also an important catalyst for community building, activism and empowerment,” she said. “By centering hip-hop culture’s presence within the Kennedy Center, the institution also celebrates and highlights the work that individual artists, curators and organizations across the country have created to honor, perpetuate and advance the legacy of this culture.”
Ecclestone’s appointment comes a year after the Kennedy Center hired rapper Q-Tip as its first artistic director for hip-hop culture. Q-Tip is a founding member of A Tribe Called Quest.
Kennedy Center leaders said the institution views hip-hop as an international, cultural phenomenon that incorporates deejaying, emceeing, breakdancing, graffiti writing, building and transforming communities into art and action.
In hiring Ecclestone to run its hip-hop programming, the center hopes to create opportunities for community involvement and find people to participate in its programs.
“We are thrilled to have an arts administrator of Simone’s caliber join us—someone who can lead that exploration of what hip-hop at the Kennedy Center can become in the coming years,” Robert van Leer, the center’s senior vice president for artistic planning, said in a statement. “And we believe it is the center’s responsibility to develop and elevate thought leaders like Simone to champion the bright future of our nation’s cultural institutions.”