The SAG-AFTRA Foundation is set to break ground next month on a 15,000-square-foot facility at the union’s mid-Wilshire headquarters that will be a central hub for the foundation’s educational, career development and event activities in the Los Angeles area.
The Meryl Streep Center for Performing Artists will be built on the 10th floor of SAG-AFTRA’s longtime home in the famed Museum Square building. It’s expected to open its doors early next year, thanks to support from its namesake, the three-time Oscar winner who is one of the most renowned actors of all time. The facility will also feature the Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson Screening Room, equipped with high-end technology to host screenings, panels and educational programs.
News of the Meryl Streep Center was unveiled Sunday evening by SAG-AFTRA Foundation president Courtney B. Vance, just as the 29th annual SAG Awards got under way at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel.
“We’re thrilled to name our new Center for Performing Artists in honor of Meryl Streep, a lionhearted leader and longtime supporter of our foundation whose commitment to her craft and her community is befitting of this recognition,” Vance said. “We are also excited to announce our new screening room will be named in honor of two additional champions of our foundation, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, whose key support, especially during times of crisis in our industry, has meant we never missed a beat when our members needed us.”
The SAG-AFTRA Foundation was established in 1985 (as SAG Foundation prior to the 2012 merger of the performers unions) as a charitable entity to support actors and other peformers in need. Since 1994, the foundation has received support from a portion of the proceeds from the SAG Awards, which operates as a for-profit entity separate from the union and the foundation.
The Meryl Streep Center will be the West Coast complement to the Robin Williams Center that the SAG-AFTRA Foundation opened in Midtown Manhattan in 2016. Like its New York counterpart, the Los Angeles facility will feature a on-camera and voiceover recording studios, tech labs, classroom spaces and other infrastructure designed to help performers hone their skills and develop their careers.
“I’ve always thought that actors should have more places to go where they can not only fully express themselves — but grow professionally,” Streep said. “The pandemic shook up our industry as we knew it, and the SAG-AFTRA Foundation was vital in assisting performers. That’s why I’m honored to have my name attached to a center where performing artists can come together to collaborate while getting the support and services they need. This exciting new space at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation will be a tremendous benefit to any performer who is looking to hone their craft and find community.”
Hanks and Wilson, who are much-admired in the industry as actors and for their enduring marriage, echoed Streep’s sentiments. The screening room is expected to host more than 200 events a year.
“Rita and I have been very fortunate in our lives and careers, so we have always found it important to give back to our fellow performers and support them on their journeys, especially during times of hardship and crises,” Hanks said. “So the fact that sometime next year, thousands of SAG-AFTRA artists in L.A. will be attending programs in a brand new screening room in our name is very heart-warming and humbling, to say the least.”
Wilson said she was “humbled and deeply grateful” to have her name on a key component of the Meryl Streep Center. She emphasized the important role that SAG-AFTRA plays in the professional lives of thespians.
“I never could have imagined anything like this honor when I got my SAG card in 1971. It was enough of a privilege just to be a member and a working actor,” Wilson said. “We care deeply about our fellow SAG-AFTRA artists, and believe the key to personal and professional success is in the communities we cultivate. The Meryl Streep Center for Performing Artists will be an amazing benefit for the entire SAG-AFTRA membership, and we are just so grateful to be part of it.”
Since its formation in 1985, the SAG-AFTRA Foundation has distributed more than $18.6 million in emergency financial and health assistance to actors as well as disaster relief. It has also given out more than $9.2 million in scholarship funds.
(Pictured top: A rendering of the entrance to the Meryl Streep Center for Performing Artists. Renderings by Best Practice.)