Historic sites that have re-emerged as centers for public life in Carson City, NV; Ocala, FL; and Springfield, IL.
Historic places and buildings are not just monuments to the past, preserving moments and memories in physical form. Actively including historical spaces as current centerpieces in community life can forge a powerful connection between people and place, creating common ground for future generations. Such is the case with three Levitt AMP communities— Carson City (NV), Springfield (IL) and Ocala (FL) — where the dedicated individuals and nonprofits behind the free Levitt AMP Music Series have brought new life and meaning to previously underused historical spaces, creating vibrant gathering places for the entire community. Read on to learn more!Continue reading →
The Levitt AMP program is all about building community—through music, through partnerships and through engagement across sectors to help create more thriving and inclusive communities. Among the sectors touched by the Levitt AMP program are local businesses. Today, we’re shining the light on how organizers behind three Levitt AMP Music Series—Fort Smith, Ark., Stevens Point, Wis., and St Johnsbury, Vt.—have leveraged their respective music series to support local businesses and stimulate their creative economies while strengthening connections within their communities.
Left to right: Levitt AMP Utica at Kopernik Park in 2019, Bunny Swan performing for Levitt AMP Soldotna in 2019 and 2021, Celloquacious at Levitt AMP Gallup’s 2020 virtual series
Levitt is all about embracing the power of free, live music to strengthen the social fabric of communities. In the towns of Gallup, New Mexico, Soldotna, Alaska and Utica, New York, the nonprofits behind their respective Levitt AMP Music Series are each embracing this mission wholeheartedly by encouraging authentic connections with their diverse communities on stage and off, from Navajo Nation tribal members to Eastern European and African refugees to Alaska Natives, creating an inclusive series where all members of their community feel welcome.
“Diversity is going to look different in every community,” said Shanon Davis, Executive Director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, the nonprofit behind the Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series. These Levitt AMP grantees are working closely with their local communities to ensure greater representation that is equitable and culturally responsive. After the tragedies of the past year, particularly for communities of color, we’re heartened to see these Levitt AMP sites work towards healing by celebrating the diversity of their communities.
Levitt AMP Berea audience members dancing during a 2018 concert.
Many college and university towns grapple with how to bridge the town-gown divide – a phenomenon in which a place that harbors two communities (the university and its student population within a town and local residents who live there full-time) experiences a sociocultural disconnect between these groups of people. While higher educational institutions bring economic growth, diversity and a youthful energy to their surrounding areas, local residents aren’t always accepting of the shifts to their established towns. Today, we’re shining the light on how two college towns – Berea, Ky., and Merced, Calif. – are balancing the needs of both students and local residents through the Levitt AMP Music Series in order to foster connections, build relationships and create a larger sense of community.
From left to right, top to bottom. Ann Brusky, Nancy Halverson, Meaghan Singletary and Sharon Yazowski participate in the “Expanding Place Through Adaptive Programming” panel at the Walk/Bike/Places conference.
During last month’s Walk/Bike/Places conference, Levitt Foundation Executive Director Sharon Yazowski moderated an engaging virtual panel with Levitt grantees from Sioux Falls, S.D., Trenton, N.J. and Sheboygan, Wisc., titled “Expanding Place Through Adaptive Programming.” The conversation focused on how these nonprofits continued to build community through the arts during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how their experiences and lessons learned have influenced their programming in 2021 and beyond, expanding their thinking around place, access and the arts.
“This past year was focused on adaptive programming to continue to connect people with each other to offer comfort, healing, and a sense of togetherness, even while needing to be apart,” Yazowski said. ”Through rethinking their programming these three nonprofits created a sense of place and opportunity for social connection beyond their traditional sites.”
Part of our series on the impact of Levitt AMP Bridge Grants
With most concerts postponed or canceled due to COVID-19, 2020 was a historically devastating year for live music and the creative ecosystems built around the industry. Despite these circumstances, each of our Levitt AMP grantees found innovative ways to keep their communities engaged through music, sparking joy and connection while providing paid performance opportunities for musicians. In addition to participating in the program-wide 2020 Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series, several grantees used funds from Levitt AMP Bridge Grants to bring free, live concerts to their communities in unconventional ways, both virtually and in-person. In today’s entry in our series on the impact of Bridge Grants, we’re honing in on how three Levitt AMP Communities — Sheboygan, Wis., Fort Smith, Ark., and Whitesburg, Ky. — creatively presented mobile, pop-up and drive-in shows in 2020.
Part of our new series on the impact of Levitt AMP Bridge Grants nationwide
Today, as the second installment in our series showcasing the impact of the 2020 Levitt AMP Bridge Grants across the country, we’re turning our attention to three projects that engaged their communities through visual art: a vibrant mural in Middlesboro, Kentucky; a one-day sidewalk chalk festival in Trenton, New Jersey; and a community-made art installation in Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia.
Part of our new series on the impact of Levitt AMP Bridge Grants nationwide
Last spring, when Levitt AMP grantees postponed their in-person concert series due to COVID-19, the Levitt Foundation created the Levitt AMP Bridge Grant, a mini-grant of up to $5k to support community-building projects and foster connections during this time of crisis and uncertainty. We were inspired by the creativity and innovative thinking of Levitt AMP grantees, creating projects ranging from free food giveaways, to mobile concerts, to beautiful new public art installations.
Over the next several weeks, we’ll be sharing stories about individual Bridge Grant projects, and the impact they had on the community, here on our blog. To launch the series, and in honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting two projects with a specific focus on Black History: an educational guide to a mural celebrating local Black history in Ocala, Florida, which is now being used as a teaching tool in the city’s public schools, and a Black History Month virtual concert in Merced, California, streaming live from the historic Merced Theatre this Saturday.
Levitt network presents over 200 virtual concerts, attracts 1 million viewers, as the show went on(line)
Levitt is all about bringing people together. About celebrating music, community and the power of the arts to fuel positive change. About strengthening the social fabric of our towns and cities. So back in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought much of American life to a halt, it struck at the heart of the Levitt mission. How could the national Levitt network of permanent outdoor music venues and Levitt AMP sites present concerts, each attracting hundreds and often times thousands of people on a typical night, given new public health restrictions on outdoor gatherings?
Tonight, the Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series comes to a close with a one-time virtual concert featuring Trenton’s legendary soul, funk and disco singer-songwriter, Sarah Dash. Co-presented by the Trenton Downtown Association, the nonprofit behind the Levitt AMP Trenton Music Series, tonight’s virtual performance celebrates Dash’s 75th birthday (her special day is August 18!) as well as the community’s ongoing efforts to expand the mix of artistic offerings and revitalize the local economy through the power of free music. Tune in at 8pm ET/5pm PT at https://levittamp.org/virtual!
The arts as community builder
Located less than a half hour from Philadelphia, Trenton is New Jersey’s state capital and home to just over 83,000 people. Known for its Revolutionary War era historical landmarks, including the Battle of Trenton Monument (where George Washington earned his first military victory), the city became a center for manufacturing and ceramic industries in the early 19th century, inspiring the proud slogan “Trenton Makes The World Takes” still visible on the city’s iconic bridge. Like many other former industrial hubs, however, the loss of manufacturing and industry brought challenges to the area in recent decades, including shuttered businesses, a shrinking population and a high poverty rate. Still, the city boasts vibrant racial and cultural diversity with nearly half its residents being African American and nearly 37 percent Hispanic.
Since its founding in 1987, the Trenton Downtown Association (TDA) has been working together with other local nonprofits to revitalize the city’s economy while providing accessible arts opportunities for residents. For years, TDA Executive Director Tom Gilmour and Development Manager Meaghan Singletary have also worked alongside statewide organizations and companies like the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. to further develop the vibrant arts scene in the city. They recognize the importance of expanding a “thriving arts and culture scene that is representative and has the ability to become an economic driver and a community-building vehicle for the city,” explains Gilmour. Over the years, TDA had spearheaded several well-established and collaborative art projects—like the Trenton Film Festival, Art All Night and Murals on Front Street—helping Trenton forge a path forward by nurturing the local creative economy and expanding arts engagement, providing opportunities for the community to come together and experience the arts free of charge. With robust experience organizing community events, Trenton’s community-oriented leaders were poised to collaborate to bring the Levitt AMP Trenton Music Series to life.