Author Archives: Vanessa Silberman

Riverfront Amphitheater along the Arkansas River, home to the future Levitt AMP Fort Smith Music Series in 2021

The Riverfront Amphitheater along the Arkansas River, home to the future Levitt AMP Fort Smith Music Series in 2021

 

Get those birthday wishes rollin’ during tonight’s free livestream concert featuring the soulful vocals of Allison Grace, a hometown favorite in the city of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Her birthday is today, and “what better way to celebrate than with a show from one of our city’s best!” exclaims Talicia Richardson, executive director of 64.6 Downtown, the nonprofit behind the Levitt AMP Fort Smith Music Series and co-presenter of tonight’s livestream as part of the Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series. Earlier this year, Grace made her nationally-televised debut performing a moving rendition of “Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones during blind auditions on NBC’s “The Voice.” Her performance impressed the judges and racked up more than half a million views on YouTube, earning her new fans across the country in the process. Tonight’s livestream will also feature the hip-hop hooks and spoken-word beats of local musician, entrepreneur and community leader Chris Chaney, so be sure to tune in at levittamp.org/virtual at 8pm EDT/5pm PDT!

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Tonight, the Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series continues with an all-new virtual concert featuring Alaska favorite bluegrass and folk-rockers Blackwater Railroad Company, co-presented by Vision Soldotna, the nonprofit behind the Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series. Formed in the small Alaskan town of Seward in 2012, Blackwater Railroad Company weaves the tapestry of the state’s musical landscape into songs that “consistently get people dancing and smiling, united in a love of live music and Alaska,” says Mary McCubbins of Vision Soldotna. The free concert airs tonight at 8pm EDT/5pm PDT at levittamp.org/virtual. Continue reading

For the past five summers, Thursday nights in the town of Sheboygan, Wis., have become synonymous with community and free, live music under the setting sun. “It’s this feel-good moment of coming together, as everyone knows that’s the night of the Levitt AMP Sheboygan Music Series!” says Angela Ramey of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC), the nonprofit behind Levitt AMP Sheboygan.

And so it’s fitting that tonight, Thursday June 25, marks Levitt AMP Sheboygan’s entry into the 2020 Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series with the exhilarating brass and street funk fusion of Chicago-based LowDown Brass Band, plus an opening set by Florida-based R&B soul artist CeCe Teneal. The concert, recorded live last summer during the Levitt AMP Sheboygan Music Series, was a natural choice for Ramey and her fellow Levitt AMP Sheboygan organizers. “It was such a joyful and uplifting night of music that was truly a shared experience between the artists and our audience,” explained Ramey. “There was something for everybody.”

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Levitt loves musicians.
They nourish our souls, fuel our imaginations and get us movin’ and groovin’. Whether in person or virtually, musicians—like Levitt—bring people together of all ages and backgrounds, creating moments of joy and shared connection for us all. Continue reading

We at the Levitt Foundation hope this finds you safe and well. Our top priority is ensuring the health and well-being of the entire Levitt community, including Levitt Foundation staff (who are working from home – hello videochat!), our Friends of Levitt partners, Levitt AMP grantees, and the hundreds of thousands of friends, families, neighbors, artists, volunteers, community partners, vendors, sponsors and supporters who bring the Levitt program to life every year.

People are at the heart of Levitt’s mission: bringing people together through the power of free, live music. At a time when we’d normally be marking our calendars for upcoming Levitt concerts and readying our picnic baskets and lawn chairs, instead we’re practicing social distancing and avoiding community gathering spaces. While the coming weeks and months remain uncertain, the Levitt network remains strong and looks towards a future of continued community through music.

The Levitt Foundation has confirmed our commitment to Friends of Levitt nonprofit partners and Levitt AMP grantees, pledging our support regardless of how, or whether, their 2020 Levitt concert series takes place. In the event of any cancellations, the Levitt Foundation will support each of our Levitt venue partners and Levitt AMP grantees in their community-building efforts during this challenging time. For the most up-to-date information regarding the status of the Levitt concert series in your community, please visit the website and social media of your community’s Levitt venue or Levitt AMP concert series.

While we all love spending our summer evenings enjoying free music under the stars, the decision regarding each local concert series may be out of the Levitt venue’s and concert site’s control—should local, state or the federal government mandate the prohibition of public gatherings continue throughout the upcoming months. Following guidance from their local public health authority, Levitt venues and concert sites may need to cancel one or several Levitt concerts. If a Levitt concert, series of concerts, or the entire series is cancelled in your community, your Levitt venue or local Levitt AMP nonprofit will make the announcement.

As so many can attest, the COVID-19 pandemic is stressful for arts & culture organizations, with many facing uncertain futures in the wake of closures and event cancellations. For Levitt venues and Levitt AMP concert sites, their concert series involves months of planning, and concert cancellations and postponements hurt each nonprofit organization financially. Given these unprecedented times, we hope local funders, sponsors and individuals will continue to rally behind their community’s Friends of Levitt and Levitt AMP nonprofits and show their support for these organizations who work tirelessly year-round to create joyful, welcoming and high-quality arts experiences for everyone.

We look forward to the time when we can once again gather as communities, especially on Levitt lawns, to celebrate the power of free, live music—building community through music.

Sharing Levitt's Impact on the Conference Stage

Over the past decade, the Levitt Foundation has helped bring thousands of free outdoor concerts to millions of people nationwide through Levitt’s transformative creative placemaking programs for communities of all sizes. The impact of permanent Levitt venues and the Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards has been far reaching—activating underused public spaces through the power of free, live music; creating welcoming gathering places where people come together to celebrate the arts and their shared humanity; injecting local economies with new activity; and strengthening the social fabric of our communities, one concert at a time. Continue reading

  • Catching our breath to say hello: Summit Executive Co-Producers Vanessa Silberman and Sharon Yazowski of the Levitt Foundation with NCCP’s Andrea Orlando and Thomas Young
    Summit Executive Co-Producers Vanessa Silberman and Sharon Yazowski of the Levitt Foundation with NCCP’s Andrea Orlando and Thomas Young
Last week, nearly 200 creative placemaking strategists from a broad range of sectors gathered in downtown Los Angeles for the first-ever Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit (CPLS) in the Pacific region! Urban planners, architects, artists, government agencies, funders, nonprofit leaders (including Levitt partners and grantees!) and community organizers, amongst others, spent three days engaged in thought-provoking sessions, rich dialogue and knowledge exchange focused on how creative placemaking—strategically engaging arts and local culture to enhance and elevate communities—can help us address pressing social, economic and environmental issues. And in another first, the Levitt Foundation played a key role in Summit planning by serving as co-producers, with Executive Director Sharon Yazowski and Senior Director of Communications & Strategic Initiatives Vanessa Silberman leading the effort, alongside the amazing folks at The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking (NCCP) and ArtPlace America.

The Pacific Summit was one of five Creative Placemaking Leadership Summits taking place in different regions across the country in 2019, organized by NCCP and ArtPlace America, and supported in part by the Levitt Foundation. “We’re dedicated to building the field of creative placemaking, and have been greatly impressed with the work of NCCP as a supporter of their summits since 2017,” says Yazowski. “So when NCCP reached out to Vanessa and I, asking if we would take a lead role in planning the Pacific Summit, we immediately knew this would be an invaluable opportunity to highlight the role of creative placemaking as a cross-sector strategy to address issues specific in the Pacific region while deepening the conversation among funders and practitioners.”

The Summit’s theme of “Shifting Tides” focused on the Pacific region’s booming economy, shifting demographics and climate change, and attracted attendees from up and down the West Coast as well as from Alaska and Hawaii. Through seminars, workshops, peer exchanges and field workshops, attendees explored how creative placemaking can play a role in shaping the future to ensure equitable, inclusive, sustainable communities while giving voice and ownership to the people who live there. Other themes that were discussed included Keeping Places (embrace the people and cultural assets already within a place while welcoming newcomers and mitigating displacement and cultural erasure), Amplifying Voices (fostering equity, diversity, and inclusion), Weathering Storms (creative approaches to disaster relief, sustainability, and regeneration) and Supporting Movement (issues related to immigration, class mobility, and public transit). Thanks to NCCP and funding from LA’s Department of Cultural Affairs, partial scholarships were awarded to 60 scholars, ensuring that artists and small nonprofits could be part of the conversation.

The Summit was also a wonderful opportunity for attendees to learn more about the Levitt program through both learning sessions and a free concert at Levitt LA!  During a morning plenary, the team at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles (Allegra Padilla, Director of Community Relations & Partnerships; Carla Contreras Cabrera, Community Outreach Coordinator; Matthew Himes, Director of Programming & Production; and Oliver DelGado, Director of Marketing & Communications) along with Yazowski, Levitt LA’s founding Executive Director, packed the room for an illuminating discussion on the intentional and multi-layered approach of Levitt LA to amplify voices in marginalized communities. The rewards and challenges of the Levitt Foundation’s hands-on grantmaking to deepen impact both from the funder and grantee perspective was the focus of another session led by Yazowski, Executive Director Patti Diou of Levitt Pavilion Arlington, and Executive Director Gina Chavez Hill of the Brewery Arts Center (Levitt AMP grantee) in Carson City, Nev. To top it off, Summit attendees danced the night away  at Levitt LA in the city’s historic MacArthur Park on Friday night, enjoying the energizing sounds of ska-rockers Viernes 13 and The Slackers while enjoying a picnic.

Additional highlights:

  • Hanmin Lius and Jennifer Mei of San Francisco’s Wildflowers Institute leading a thoughtful discussion on cultural mapping and the ways people self-identify as artists in unlikely places as a way to address issues around displacement
  • Annette Roth of the Washington State Arts Commission discussing the opportunities and challenges of creating cultural districts in rural communities
  • The City of San Jose’s Michael Ogilvie discussing the city’s interactive public art program, Illuminating Downtown, marrying art with tech to create a more engaging sense of place
  • Joanne Kim and Kristen Gordon sharing plans for LA’s Destination Crenshaw, an open-air museum along a transit corridor reclaiming and honoring Black LA set to open in 2020
  • In-the-Field workshops on Saturday to Leimert Park (one of LA’s most vibrant cultural districts), LA’s Japantown (fighting for its future through placekeeping), LA Poverty Department (arts group consisting of un-housed and formerly un-housed people) and Self Help Graphics (a cultural anchor in an evolving, historically Latino neighborhood)

As the field of creative placemaking continues to grow, evolve and deepen, we look forward to continuing our support of CPL Summits!  Next up? CPL is headed to Cincinnati October 10-12 to engage creative placemakers from throughout the Midwest.

Annemarie “Mimi” Gratzinger Levitt, an iconic patron of the arts and historic preservation, died of natural causes on January 6, 2019 at her home in New York. She was 97. Known for her intelligence, grace and hands-on approach to philanthropy and activism, Mimi believed in the arts as a source for positive social change and left a lasting legacy of generosity and service to the causes she supported. Continue reading

LNT

Next summer, Southern raconteur Paul Thorn and his six-piece band will team up with five-time GRAMMY-winning Gospel legend, Blind Boys of Alabama, for a one-of-a-kind musical collaboration as headliners of the 2018 Levitt National Tour. Levitt audiences across the country will experience these exhilarating, soulful shows blending old-school gospel with rock, blues and country.

Taking place next June and July, the 2018 Levitt National Tour will stop in seven cities including Arlington, Texas; Bethlehem, Pa.; Dayton, Ohio; Denver; Los Angeles; Memphis; and Sioux Falls, S.D. (the future home of Levitt Shell Sioux Falls). The Tour follows on the heels of the 2017 Levitt National Tour, which featured Gulf Coast Soul sensation The Suffers, and previous Levitt National Tours featuring genre-busting violin outfit Black Violin (2015) and the world-music fusion of Playing For Change (2014).

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Change embodies creative placemaking focus for Foundation

Last month, we announced some exciting news—the work of our national nonprofit, Levitt Pavilions, will be carried out by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation going forward, furthering our mission to strengthen communities across the country through free, live music.

Since 2005, the Levitt Foundation has awarded more than $20 million to its nonprofit partners and grantees to support free concerts in communities large and small. As Liz Levitt Hirsch, president of the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, explained, “This exciting change signals our resolve to direct the majority of the Foundation’s philanthropy towards creative placemaking programs that focus on free concerts in public spaces. With funding now geared to one main cause, it made sense to place the operations of our national organization under one roof and to function as the Levitt Foundation, thus sunsetting Levitt Pavilions.” Continue reading