Located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts is the mid-state’s premier center for arts, education, entertainment and cultural enrichment. Whitaker Center is composed of three main venues — Sunoco Performance Theater, Select Medical Digital Cinema, and Harsco Science Center.
Our mission — To serve as the center for scientific, artistic, cultural and educational activities to enhance the region’s quality of life and economic vitality.
We accomplish the mission by staying on the cutting edge of exciting new public experiences, offering intriguing world-class exhibitions, presenting the latest in giant-screen films, hosting the finest in live performances and spectacular events, and doing all we can to make Central Pennsylvania a better place to live, work and play.
Since opening in 1999, Whitaker Center has hosted more than 4 million visitors. More than 450,000 students have enriched their knowledge of the sciences at the Science Center, and the entire facility has generated more than $300,000,000 in economic impact for the region.
Whitaker Center was named for Uncas A. and Helen F, Whitaker, whose legacy of gernerosity and support for both science and the arts made the Center possible. Uncas A. Whitaker founded AMP Incorporated, which was a Fortune 500 Company and regional corporate powerhouse for decades. The Whitaker Foundation was established upon his death in 1975 to support biomedical engineering research and education. His wife, Helen, created The Helen F. Whitaker Fund, which supported training for classical musicians.
Both foundations provided major support to build the facility. Whitaker Center is an enduring legacy to their generous philanthropy and regional stewardship. After years of making grants to the region and the nation, both foundations closed in 2006.
Before Whitaker Center became a reality, there was a need to create a place which promoted science, the arts, and could culturally enrich the downtown area. This common ‘need’ emerged in the late 1980s, when local community leaders, business leaders, city planners, art associations and government officials came together.
The colloboration between these groups resulted in "Cultural Connections: A Cultural Plan for the Capital Region.” It was the Cultural Plan that proposed creation of a center that "would contain a fine arts museum, a new home for the Museum of Scientific Discovery, and a 400-600-seat theater with workshop, rehearsal, and studio space."
The Cultural Plan engaged those persons who were essential to the eventual success of Whitaker Center. A steering committee was formed and included William Alexander, Rev. Clarice Chambers, Miles Gibbons, Jr., Mack Granderson, Bill Lehr, Jr., Charles Merrill, Drew Allen Miller, Sondra Osler, Paul Serff, Glen Shell, Conrad Siegel, Robert Sloane, chairman Edward First, Jr., Esq. and vice chairman Harold McInnes.
Next former Mayor Steven R. Reed formed a task force to guide fundraising and development efforts. The task force included Russell Ford, Lois Lehrman Grass, Bill Lehr, Jr., Mim Warden, Mary Webber Weston, William Warren Esq., Richard Willey, chairman Harold McInnes. Dr. Thomas Stone was soon brought on board to lead the task force staff and would eventually serve as the first president and CEO.
In 1993, initial funding in the form of generous grants from the City of Harrisburg and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were obtained. The Whitaker Foundation pledge of $7 million in March 1994 set the fundraising efforts in full motion. The Whitaker Foundation and Helen F. Whitaker Fund provided $8.2 million in leadership gifts for the campaign, ultimately contributing a total of $16.8 million. Other forward-thinking individuals, foundations and corporations began to provide gifts to the Leadership Gifts Campaign under the honorary chairmanship of Rite Aid founder Alex Grass. By September of 1997, ground was broken on the corner of Third and Market Streets in the heart of downtown Harrisburg and Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, a $52.7 million public-private partnership, was born.
Whitaker Center opened its doors on September 9, 1999, welcoming visitors to a unique experience in education and entertainment. It was named in memory of the founder of AMP Incorporated (now TE Connectivity), Uncas A. Whitaker and his wife Helen F. Whitaker, in recognition of more than $8 million contributed by The Whitaker Foundation and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund.
Former Mayor Stephen R. Reed, who was an integral part of the project, proudly referred to Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts as "Harrisburg's Crown Jewel."
Thanks to the support of many visionaries throughout Pennsylvania and the surrounding region including more than 300 corporations, foundations and individuals, have invested in Whitaker Center, a cultural center which directly impacts the area in which they live, work or serve.
The official registration and financial information of the Capital Center for the Arts, Science and Education, Inc. may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.
In addition to being home to a captivating blend of arts, science and entertainment activities, the Whitaker Center building is one of downtown Harrisburg’s most unique and exciting architectural treasures. Below are some interesting facts about the building itself.
- Architect Hugh Hardy's work includes restoration of Radio City Music Hall, the revitalization of Bryant Park, and renovation of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Total space: 130,000 square feet
- Constructed with 1405 tons of structural steel
- Consists of 6455 pieces of golden sandstone, chosen by the architect to complement the gray Pennsylvania granite of many downtown buildings.
- The Rotated Square in the center of the exterior is clad in 10,365 separate shingles of gray, green and purple slate
- The exterior is lit with 14 Pylon lights on the Market Street and Third Street sides. Each 15-foot electric Pylon contains 6-foot fluorescent lanterns that shine with 500 watts.
- Primary programming is announced on a 20 foot high LED sign.
- Features a two-level connecting lobby for easy interaction between the three entries into the Center. These include Market Street (the civic front door where pedestrian traffic enters) a vehicle drop-off entrance on Third Street, and an internal bridge connecting the Hilton Harrisburg, Strawberry Square, and Walnut Street Garage.
- A two story curved wall made of alternating bands of opaque and translucent materials can be illuminated for dramatic effect. Visual arts are displayed on this unique wall.
- A graphic design of gentle curves along the balcony of the Sunoco Performance Theater, coupled with flower shaped light fixtures was designed to honor the Susquehanna River in the springtime.
- The interior design hinges around primary shapes and primary colors, with red and circles for the Sunoco Performance Theater, Select Medical Deigital Cinema is a blue square, and Harsco Science a green rectangle. All three colors and shapes are used in the AMP Grand Lobby and Kunkel Gallery.
Michael L. Hanes, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Vice President, Science and Cinema Programs
Vice President, Operations
Chief Financial Officer
Director of Development