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. Whitake Center is composed of three main venues — Sunoco Performance Theater, Select Medical IMAX® Theater, 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 $280,000,000 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, and The Whitaker Foundation made the naming gift. 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.
For over 20 years, local community leaders, business leaders, city planners, art associations and government officials had dreamed of a cultural center in downtown Harrisburg.
In 1993, a small group of these dedicated leaders began to meet. Soon, initial funding in the form of generous grants from the City of Harrisburg and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were obtained. Other forward-thinking individuals, foundations and corporations began to provide gifts to the Leadership Gifts Campaign under the honorary chairmanship of Alex Grass. Over the years, much work, many people, hundreds of businesses, thousands of hours of planning and millions of dollars of funding gave strength to the dream.
In September, 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.
On September 9, 1999, Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts opened its doors for the first time, welcoming its visitors to a unique experience in education and entertainment. It was named in memory of the founder of AMP Incorporated, Uncas A. Whitaker and his wife Helen F. Whitaker, in recognition of over $8 million contributed by The Whitaker Foundation and the Helen F. Whitaker Fund.
Mayor Stephen R. Reed, an integral part of this project from day one, has proudly referred to Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts as "Harrisburg's Crown Jewel".
The hard work and search for funding continue. Under the able leadership of Harold A. McInnes, Chairman of the Board for the last six years, the Capital Campaign for Whitaker Center is close to its $52.7 million goal. Thanks to the support of many visionaries throughout Pennsylvania and the surrounding region. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Harrisburg and Dauphin County as well as over 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, 1.(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.
- 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 with bands of constantly moving electronic messages.
- 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 also 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.
Michael L. Hanes, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Vice President, Science and IMAX Programs
Vice President, Operations
Chief Financial Officer
Director of Marketing & Sales
Director of Development