Category Archives: Placemaking

Brulé at Levitt Shell Sioux Falls

November is National Native American Heritage Month. In 1990, this national month-long observance was created to acknowledge and celebrate the rich histories, diverse cultures and noteworthy contributions of indigenous communities. By leveraging the power of community partnerships and creative placemaking—the integration of arts and culture to engage communities—permanent Levitt venues have had the privilege of collaborating with Native American artists and organizations to help bring indigenous arts and culture into the spotlight. Read on to learn about the inspiring partnerships and performers that have brought indigenous arts to three permanent Levitt venues this past summer.

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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.

EarthDayHeaderToday is Earth Day, so we’re joining the global community in celebrating the planet we call home. And what better time of year to celebrate? With flowers blooming, hummingbirds buzzing and this season of growth in full force, we’re surrounded by reminders of our planet’s abundant gifts! In honor of today’s holiday, we’re shining the spotlight on a few of the many projects across the country that celebrate the vibrant intersection of greenspace, sustainability and art, re-energizing communities and the natural environment.

Across the U.S., barren concrete riverbeds, abandoned railroads, forgotten bridges and other forms of unused city infrastructure are being transformed into vibrant urban oases. Los Angeles, Atlanta and Washington D.C. are a few of the many cities where city officials, organizations and community members are working together to incorporate sustainability and public art into exciting greenspace revitalization projects. Continue reading

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Last month, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released Rural Arts, Design and Innovation in America: Research Findings from the Rural Establishment Innovation Survey. The report pulls compelling findings from data captured in the 2014 Rural Establishment Innovation Survey (REIS)—illustrating the economic impact of the arts in rural communities by identifying key patterns and relationships among arts organizations, design-integrated firms and business innovators in rural settings. We enjoyed this report so much, we created the infographic above to highlight a few of our favorite findings. Click here for the NEA’s full list of takeaways and here to read the full report. Continue reading

  • "The Bridge" by Elena Colombo (2011); SteelStacks Arts and Cultural Campus, home to Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks (Bethlehem, PA)

Sounds, colors and people fill a Levitt lawn, infusing a palpable energy into an underused public space. More and more, public art—whether it’s a temporary installation, a permanent mural, or an interactive sculpture, to name a few—is becoming part of the Levitt experience across the country. Below are some of the exciting ways Levitt communities have embraced the multidimensional power of the arts in public spaces. Continue reading

Header-NADOLevitt Foundation Executive Director Sharon Yazowski is currently more than 3,000 miles north of our Los Angeles office, in Anchorage, Alaska—where this morning she delivered a plenary presentation at the annual National Association of Development Organizations Annual Training Conference. Using case studies from across the placemaking sector, including a selection from our own research, her session gave regional planning and economic development professionals from across the country a glimpse into the ways place-based initiatives, especially those involving the arts, can build social capital, strengthening communities in the process.

Screenshot 2017-06-16 14.24.54Inspired by this morning’s presentation, today we’re releasing the third installment of our “Research Recap” blog series, featuring posts that highlight a particular finding from our recently published impact study, and taking a closer look at “social capital.” The term refers to the value that is derived from existing within and being connected to social networks. While the term itself has been around for more than a century—and the practice, even longer—it’s becoming more prevalent in today’s lexicon, as more and more towns and cities recognize the importance of building a stronger and more cohesive community. Continue reading

  • UN Habitat and Minecraft teamed up to create Block by Block, a community participation tool allowing residents in underserved communities to play minecraft and create project proposals that reconstruct unused public space in their communities.

Placemaking places people at the heart of its process—empowering individuals by giving them an active voice in shaping the spaces around them, mapping and designing their own communities. This week, we’re highlighting a few fascinating placemaking projects from around the globe that illustrate the beauty of people coming together and creating a shared vision for their community.

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Summer has long been synonymous with outdoor concerts across the country. A simple search for “free outdoor concerts” yields hundreds of thousands of results coast to coast. Each year brings an increasing number of opportunities to experience free, live music in outdoor settings—from single concerts centered around a specific celebration like the annual Memorial Day Concert on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; to coordinated events like Make Music Day, when dozens of U.S. cities celebrate the summer solstice through free music performances; to weekly concert series like Summerstage in parks throughout New York City and free Levitt concerts in towns and cities across America.

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Do you get together with your neighbors on a regular basis? If the answer is no, you’re not alone—according to a 2015 study, only 20 percent of Americans regularly spend time with their neighbors, and a third of the country’s population has never interacted with neighbors. At Levitt, we always encourage people to get to know one another, whether that’s through enjoying free concerts together or through other kinds of community-building activities.

That’s why we love the idea behind Neighborday, a holiday devised seven years ago by media company GOOD to inspire Americans to reach out to folks living next door and plan a communal activity. A block party is one idea, but GOOD offers several other creative ways to forge friendships and build community pride within our neighborhoods. Here are four activities that you and your neighbors can put together just in time for Neighborday on April 29!

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