Category Archives: Levitt Artists

Tonight at 8pm ET/5pm PT, tune in to a Levitt AMP virtual concert for a taste of what makes Monday nights so special in Utica, New York. Featuring performances by four talented artists—acclaimed singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Isaac French; new mellow rock collaboration Tree of Life, local rapper Leeky XIV featuring Eric Armitage; and award-winning blues legend Jimmy Wolf, this lively and eclectic evening celebrates the creative energy that’s transforming a ‘Rust Belt’ city in Upstate New York into a thriving hub for residents from across the globe. Tonight’s show is co-presented by the Levitt AMP Utica team and the nonprofit Utica Monday Nite, who’ve spearheaded the transformation of a littered triangular throughway in the heart of their city into a vibrant, inclusive and music-filled point of pride. Check it out tonight at levittamp.org/virtual!

Reviving a ‘Rust Belt’ community through inclusion and creativity
Located on the Mohawk River at the foot of the majestic Adirondack Mountains, Utica residents enjoy stunning geography, access to global culinary delights and neighbors from all over the world. Like many other former industrial hubs in the Northeast, Utica experienced decades of decline in the mid-20th century, losing about a third of its population after local factories closed. Yet new populations were soon to arrive with the 1981 founding of the nonprofit Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, which would change the face of the city by resettling more than 15,000 refugees from over 30 nations, increasing the city’s population to more than 60,000 and making the city home to the nation’s fourth largest concentration of refugees—including Somalis, Bosnians, Syrians, Sudanese and people from Myanmar. Today, nearly 20 percent of Utica’s population is foreign born with more than a quarter of the population speaking languages other than English (and over 40 languages spoken in the local high school!). People from all over the world have found a home and a welcoming space in Utica.
Continue reading

Before-after-template-with-social-and-collage2

Tonight, the Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series continues to bring joy to music lovers across the country with an electric performance by folk-rock music duo, HuDost. Co-presented by Catamount Arts, the nonprofit behind the Levitt AMP St. Johnsbury Music Series, tonight’s virtual concert celebrates the ongoing collaborative effort to strengthen and unify the community of St. Johnsbury through the power of music. Be sure to tune in at 8pm ET/5PM PT at https://levittamp.org/virtual! Continue reading

Tonight’s Levitt AMP virtual show brings the bright, buoyant sounds of Appalachia straight to you! Tune in to experience an incredible evening of music curated by the team behind the Levitt AMP Berea Music Series, including a performance by headlining act The Possum Queens. This all-female ‘Kentucky Old-Time’ quartet “got down the fiddle, rosined up the bow [and] dusted off the cobwebs” to record tonight’s lively virtual performance at Berea’s newly launched Rebel Rebel Studio and Lounge, a multi-use creative space co-founded by Levitt AMP Berea organizer Ali Blair with photographer Erica Chambers. The virtual concert will also feature local favorites Tyler Devall and Corey Shenk. Be sure to tune in at 8pm ET/5pm PT at levittamp.org/virtual!

A small town with trailblazing roots

Berea_College_Selma-Banner2

Berea College students, faculty and staff joining 25,000 other demonstrators in the last phase of the March on Montgomery from Selma, Ala., on March 25, 1965; Photo courtesy of Berea College, Special Collections & Archives

Blair first crossed paths with The Possum Queens fiddler Anna Harrod at a local backyard bonfire, surrounded by the joyous live folk and bluegrass music of Berea College professors and student musicians. The trailblazing Berea College has shaped the surrounding community since it was founded in 1855 by minister and abolitionist John G. Fee, as the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Fee and his colleagues put their lives on the line to remove barriers to higher education. Since 1892, the boldly inclusive institution has also provided a high-quality education to its students—many of whom are from underserved areas of Southern Appalachia—completely free of charge. Driven by the homegrown talent of students and their families, the school has developed a phenomenal artisan craft program, laying the groundwork for Berea’s wide-reaching reputation as the ‘Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky.’ Every year, lifelong learners flock to Berea from far and wide for the city’s summer ‘Festival of Learnshops’ and winter ‘Make it, take it, give it!”—both rooted in artisan craft workshops.

Only 45 minutes south of Lexington, Ky., the town of Berea, Ky., is a quickly growing community of nearly 16,000 people that has held onto its ‘small town feel.’ Boasting a renowned higher learning institution, a vibrant artisan craft scene, a growing commitment to sustainable living and a legacy of social justice, Berea attracts more new residents each year—growing by nearly 12% since 2010 and making it one of the fastest growing towns in the state.

Building an inclusive space
Inspired by the utopian ideals that shaped Berea College, in 2014 the nonprofit Berea Arts Council began teaming up with local events producer Ali Blair to bring affordable arts experiences to the Berea community. “We wanted to celebrate those ideals that the city and the college was founded on,” explains Blair, “and stand up for those ideals now, in a time…that a lot of people would like to see them stamped out.” Since Berea Arts Council’s founding in 1986, the nonprofit has worked to create year-round, accessible experiences for people to come together and celebrate the city’s rich diversity through the arts, with programming like the free, family-friendly First Friday Berea monthly block party, which began in 2014 and celebrated Berea’s heritage of Appalachian activism, community and culture through diverse musical programming and vendor booths featuring local foods, crafts and services. In looking to replace lost funds for the series, the team came across the Levitt AMP grant opportunity in 2016 and thought it would be a natural fit. They appreciated Levitt’s commitment to showcasing artists of all backgrounds and genres and introducing listeners to other cultures in the process, and recognized that a Levitt AMP grant would allow them to elevate their series and tap into a national network of knowledge and resources.

What’s more, the Levitt AMP grant could help them activate an underused downtown area. In 1996, a hurricane had left a devastating path of destruction through the heart of the town, damaging around 1,000 homes and several artisan shops. When the area was rebuilt, it was built with the intention of celebrating the town’s craft heritage with a downtown “Old Town” Artisan Village, a cultural district for shopping and studio space for working artists. While First Friday Berea brought attention and activation to the Artisan Village, it had yet to realize its full potential as a thriving hub for art, food music and community.

Before-after-Berea-header4

Photos from the Levitt AMP Berea Music Series; Photos by Erica Chambers

The inaugural Levitt AMP Berea Music Series in 2017 drew hundreds of concertgoers into Berea’s Artisan Village each week. And over the 10 weeks, the series piqued the interest of  entrepreneurs and restaurant owners, who expressed interested in opening businesses in “Old Town” because of the Levitt AMP series. New businesses and invaluable new site improvements (like an ADA compliant sidewalk) have continued to pop up around the concert site. Perhaps most importantly, over the years, the series has brought together concertgoers of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, incomes and education levels to create one of the city’s most inclusive spaces, where all members of the multi-faceted community are welcomed. The concerts have also helped to expand the work and impact of the Berea Arts Council as a whole. “Levitt AMP has allowed us to reach new people and serve new folks in the community,” explains Blair, “and hopefully has really increased our relevancy to the wider community.”

#BuildingBerea during a global pandemic
The Berea Arts Council is embracing this period of transition, looking at how they as an organization are serving the community and assessing how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the evolving needs of the people they’re serving. “We’re trying to re-envision and reimagine those offerings” says Blair. They have already shifted their community art gallery to a virtual gallery—where they will feature their upcoming ‘Young at Art’ and ‘Teen Art’ shows—and have converted their street-side windows into a mini-gallery. Exciting new works—like those created as part of Julie Struck’s youth empowerment and mental health awareness project Hold Up Hold On! will be installed to continue uplifting passersby during this time of transition.

In the spirit of building a new future together, Blair will be pursuing a crowd-sourced initiative thanks to support from a Levitt Foundation Bridge Grant, inspired by ideas from the community. One of Blair’s most commonly used hashtags is #BuildingBerea and she plans to call upon community members to do just that. Residents will be invited to submit innovative and interesting project ideas that strengthen, uplift, connect and inspire friends, families and neighbors during this challenging time. Blair is particularly interested in engaging local youth. “There are a lot of things that they’re missing out on right now,” she says. Reflecting on her own graduating eighth grader’s missed graduation celebration, she hopes to “give them something to be excited about,” by empowering youth to envision and help create meaningful community-building experiences for Berea.

Possum Queens by Erica Chambers

The Possum Queens; Photo by Erica Chambers

While the way in which we gather has shifted, organizations like the Berea Arts Council are still hard at work to create inclusive and inspiring spaces to celebrate the beauty and strength of human expression. Tonight is no exception. Join us at 8pm ET/5pm PT for a taste of authentic, homegrown Central Kentucky folk and bluegrass and Appalachian artistry straight out of Berea, Ky. Tune in at levittamp.org/virtual!

Tune into tonight’s Levitt AMP virtual concert to experience the critically-acclaimed soulstress Julie Black, co-presented by the Marion Cultural Alliance (MCA) and the City of Ocala—the dynamic team behind the Levitt AMP Ocala Music Series. Recorded in collaboration with the Reilly Arts Center, as part of the new Reilly Digital Series, tonight’s concert celebrates the collective creativity, innovation and resilience of Ocala’s cultural sector.

Stitching Together ‘One Ocala’

b49529d42304d05db50226ab35df3706

Sign welcoming visitors to Ocala

Nestled in the heart of north central Florida’s ‘horse country,’ classic Florida charm thrives in the 60,429-person city of Ocala. Home to more horses than anywhere else in the country and the U.S. Equestrian Team’s official training site, many consider the Ocala/Marion County area to be the “Horse Capital of the World.” Located about 80 miles northwest of Orlando, Ocala is surrounded by freshwater streams and rolling hills, and just minutes away from ‘Florida’s Original Attraction,’ the scenic Silver Springs State Park—which boasts crystal clear 72-degree springs year-round.

Today, community leaders are working together to create ‘One Ocala’ after decades of disinvestment in the city’s historically Black neighborhoods created a tale of two very different Ocalas. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 changed the face of West Ocala, transforming this once vibrant hub of local African American commerce and community life on West Broadway into a busy throughway—destroying homes, businesses, a hospital and other landmarks in the process. For decades, US Highway 301 stood as both a physical and social division between West Ocala and the city’s downtown, deepening cultural and economic divisions, as well. Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

Working_header_July_concerts

July is here with new opportunities to enjoy free virtual Levitt concerts! Check out this month’s roundup of free shows presented by permanent Levitt venues and Levitt AMP grantees across the nation, featuring artists like Drew Angus, The Greyhounds,  Kat Wright, Allison Grace and Levi Platero. Discover new music and welcome in the sounds of summer with this month’s lively and electric selection of virtual concerts.

Continue reading

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

The Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series fun continues tonight with an intimate home studio performance featuring Iowan country/blues/folk/punk fusion sensation William Elliott Whitmore. Tune in to see why this 2019 Levitt AMP Earlham Music Series fan favorite packed more than 750 people into Earlham City Park last summer during the city’s inaugural Levitt AMP Earlham Music Series—the largest crowd the park had ever held! Tonight’s new virtual show will be filled with energy and heart, much like Earlham itself.

Earlham-sign

Photo courtesy of the City of Earlham

One-square mile of small town charm
Situated in an idyllic, rural setting about 30 miles west of Des Moines, the historic community of Earlham is home to 1,450 people where residents get to enjoy the pace, camaraderie and charm of a small town. Nostalgic and vibrant, this one-square mile community is home to both families who’ve lived there for generations and newer transplants seeking that “small town feel”—including many who work in Des Moines and reside in Earlham. Continue reading

Before and after photos of the public space home to Levitt AMP Middlesboro concerts

Before and after photos of the public space home to Levitt AMP Middlesboro concerts

Once a vacant gravel lot in the middle of town surrounded by decaying infrastructure, “Performance Park” in downtown Middlesboro, Ky. is now a lush green space with a state-of-the art stage built by local volunteers through a donation. For the past five summers, it’s been home to the Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series, which has delivered free, live music under the stars to thousands of people in the community on Thursday nights.

Southern Avenue performing at Levitt AMP Middlesboro in 2019

Southern Avenue performing at Levitt AMP Middlesboro in 2019

Although live concerts won’t return to Levitt AMP Middlesboro until 2021 due to COVID-19, the series is bringing music to the community virtually for the first time ever tonight as part of the 2020 Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series! Featuring an all-new performance from GRAMMY-nominated Memphis blues group Southern Avenue, the show premieres at 8pm EDT / 5pm PDT. Following a thrilling show at Levitt AMP Middlesboro last summer, Southern Avenue is sure to bring a polished, energetic performance to the digital space.

Continue reading

Tonight, the Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series continues with a throwback to one of the most memorable nights of Levitt AMP Carson City’s 2019 season. Tune in to enjoy full concert footage of Tribal Celtic powerhouse The Wicked Tinkers delivering an exhilarating performance to more than 3,000 concertgoers from The Change Companies stage at the Brewery Arts Center. The virtual show celebrates Carson City’s communal effort to save a community treasure and transform an underused downtown into a thriving arts destination.

What a difference five years can make
Nestled just minutes from world famous Lake Tahoe, bustling Reno, historic Virginia City and the majestic Sierra Nevada mountain range, Carson City has aptly been described as “the centerpoint of your Nevada experience.” Boasting exciting new opportunities for residents to work, play and connect, it’s no surprise that the city’s population of more than 55,000 is growing larger and more diverse. Five years ago, walking down Main Street in Nevada’s capital city would have felt like a different street altogether. The city had just started work on the last leg of a new freeway linking Reno and Carson City. This new stretch of road would go on to increase regional and national traffic flow, and decrease through-traffic congestion through the heart of downtown Carson City. This pivotal infrastructure change laid the groundwork for Carson City’s historic downtown to become a more visitor and resident-friendly destination. With significant changes underway, the City had also just approved redevelopment plans for the downtown area, but the arts were not yet a part of the revitalization strategy.

Tahoe_Beer_edited

Historic photo of Carson Brewing Company; Courtesy of Nevada Historical Society

Continue reading