Part of our series on the impact of Levitt AMP Bridge Grants

banner-2With 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.

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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.  

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Today is International Women’s Day, a time to celebrate the achievements of women across the world while bringing visibility to gender bias and inequality. The theme of this year’s celebration is #ChooseToChallenge, highlighting the power of individuals to call out injustice and spark change. In music, female artists are perhaps more visible than ever, with performers like Rihanna, Arianna Grande, Cardi B, Lizzo, Taylor Swift, and Billie Eilish all reaching the highest echelons of mainstream success. Behind the scenes, however, women are still vastly underrepresented, and are far more likely to experience bias and harassment than their male peers working in the industry. Today on our blog, we bring attention to four sobering statistics that show how gender bias remains a pervasive force in the music industry, and throughout this month, which is Women’s History Month, we’ll be shining the light on some of the fearless females who are challenging the status quo.

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Part of our new series on the impact of Levitt AMP Bridge Grants nationwide

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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.

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Top row: Fiona Apple; S+C+A+R+R; Alicia Keys; Middle row: PJ Morton; Dua Lipa; Stormzy; Adrianne Lenker; Bottom row: BTS; Chloe x Halle; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

As we prepare to bid adieu to 2020, we took a look back on some of the songs that brought our team joy and comfort throughout this year. Although the conventional concert experience was sorely missed by all, listening to music at home brought us inspiration and rejuvenation when we needed it most. Featuring a selection from each member of the Levitt team, our 2020 Staff Picks playlist includes both new releases and old favorites alike, bringing together sounds and moods from across the musical spectrum. With everything from upbeat pop productions, perfect for living room #MusicMoves, to slower, sentimental songs, suited for quiet evenings in, we hope you enjoy this quick, eclectic mix, created collectively by all of us. Head over to Spotify to listen now, or read to see each team member’s selection!

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As the global pandemic continues to impact the way we work, play, travel and gather, many of us are having to rethink our holiday plans this season. Fortunately, if you’re looking for some safe and festive family-friendly activities to spark your holiday spirit, we’ve got you covered! Here’s a list of free activities packed with holiday fun and creativity for you to enjoy with family and friends:

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Top row (L to R): Joanie Leeds, The Baylor Project, Poncho Sanchez, Sarah Jarosz, Fantastic Negrito. Middle row (L to R): The Okee Dokee Brothers, Ruthie Foster, Devon Gilfillian, Maren Morris, Black Violin. Bottom row (L to R): Mavis Staples, North Mississippi Allstars, Lucinda Williams, Billy Strings, Sierra Hull.

Earlier today, The Recording Academy announced its full list of 2021 GRAMMY Award nominees, giving artists and professionals across the music industry cause for celebration during a challenging year. We’re especially thrilled to congratulate the 27 nominees who’ve performed on Levitt stages across the country! Ranging from Latin, pop, country, jazz and more, these talented performers have captured the attention of critics and audiences around the globe, from blues sensation North Mississippi Allstars who have graced Levitt Shell Memphis to country duo, Brothers Osborne. Check out the nominees below and catch the ceremony on January 31, 2021.  
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Along with Levitt AMP grantees, we co-presented 20 virtual concerts over 12 music-filled weeks this summer for the 2020 Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series. The amazing array of artists and spectacular sonic diversity soon left us hungry for more, so last month, we partnered with Levitt AMP grantees once again to present a new twist on the series: REMIX! 

Viewers tuned in from far and wide for Episode II of REMIX

Viewers tuned in from far and wide for Episode II of REMIX

Featuring a curated selection of the most memorable musical moments from each concert, REMIX spanned three episodes, each premiering  with a Friday night watch party on Facebook. We were thrilled to see people from all corners of the country tune into the broadcast, and loved reading all the comments left by Levitteers during the show! Even if you missed the premiere, you can still experience each episode of REMIX on our Vimeo channel — scroll down to start watching!

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Across the country, the pandemic has brought a halt to music venue operations with 90% of them in danger of closing permanently if they don’t receive government assistance. Beloved venues and iconic musical landmarks from the Boulder Theater in Colorado to the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and the Belly Up in San Diego, are at risk of closing their doors for good due to COVID restrictions.

In response, the independent venue community has been hard at work to keep the sector afloat. Earlier this year, Independent Venue Week and the nation’s top independent music venues formed the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) to help #SaveOurStages across the nation by bringing attention to the plight of their sector and call for emergency assistance. And this week, they’re shining the light on their cause even more through Independent Venue Week, happening now through October 30! Enjoy a diverse array of livestream performances and panel discussions with artists and music industry professionals that highlight the breadth of creative, community-building opportunities that independent music venues provide across the country. From Danielle Durack’s poignant indie-pop performance on October 25 to Jinx Jones soothing blues performance on October 28, artists of all backgrounds and genres are showing up to support this valuable cause. If you didn’t have a chance to tune in, make sure to check out previous and upcoming events on independentvenueweek.com.

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Throughout our nation’s history, art has played a valuable role in propelling social justice movements forward while inspiring hope and celebrating our shared humanity. From Women’s Suffrage to Civil Rights to the United Farm Workers to Black Lives Matter, artists of all disciplines have amplified causes that give voice to marginalized groups and reveal systems of injustice to inspire positive change. Music, murals, graphic posters, political cartoons, spoken word and other forms of artistic expression have created spaces that bring awareness to social causes and build community. Today we’re sharing some of the inspiring ways art has become a tool for activism and the way it has helped shape social movements in the U.S.

Reshaping perceptions of women’s suffrage through posters and cartoons

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“Bugler Girl” by Caroline Watts (1908)

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which secured a woman’s right to vote in the U.S. The campaign for women’s suffrage began in the early 1900s and involved the efforts of countless women, including female artists and cartoonists who advanced the suffrage agenda by conveying a collective narrative through their art. The movement’s bold banners, posters and political cartoons helped challenge the prevailing view of the times that a woman’s place was exclusively in the home. Posters were a relatively new form of mass communication and became an effective tool to deliver the movement’s messages to the masses. The allegorical bugler, calling her “troops” to battle in this 1908 “Women’s Suffrage March and Mass-Meeting” poster by British illustrator Caroline Watts, shows how strong female imagery was used to call together women who were ready to challenge the status quo. Watts first created her iconic “Bugler Girl” poster to promote the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies’ June demonstrations in London. This illustration was such a success, it was selected to become the logo of the British newspaper The Suffragette and was later borrowed by the women’s suffrage movement here in the U.S. Used to promote the National American Suffrage Association’s March 3, 1913 parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., Watts’ memorable poster helped mobilize over 5,000 suffragettes in the nation’s capital.

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“Victory” by Nina Allender (1920)

Political cartoons published in newspapers and magazines were another accessible form of artistic expression that are credited with advancing the goals of suffragists during this era. The Kansas-based artist, cartoonist and women’s rights activist Nina Allender created political cartoons to counter anti-suffrage propaganda that depicted suffragists as unfeminine, undesirable and bitter. Allender instead created drawings with political satire that portrayed suffragists as young, bright and active women who were part of a new, hopeful generation unafraid to challenge authority. From 1914-27, she created nearly 300 political cartoons that helped reshape the view of women and suffragettes among both the public and the media, with perhaps the most famous being “Victory,” the popular 1920 cartoon showing a woman flying a victory banner in celebration of the passage of the 19th amendment. 

Empowering art of freedom during the Civil Rights movement
The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which aimed to end our nation’s institutionalized discrimination, segregation and violence toward Black people, called for equal rights and protections under the law. This era’s surge of activism was marked by non-violent protests and acts of targeted civil disobedience, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Freedom Rides and the Greensboro Woolworth Sit-Ins. The movement also ushered in a massive wave of artistic expression to communicate the issues and ideals of the movement. Artists like Jacob Lawrence, Mahalia Jackson and David Hammons created powerful paintings, music and sculptures that amplified the movement’s fight for equality. For example, Lawrence’s celebrated 1962 painting “Soldiers and Students” depicts a group of Black students accompanied by three armed guards, surrounded by a group of angry protesters attempting to block their entry into a school. The painting poignantly captures the determination and courage of Black students trying to exercise their right to a fair and equal education. Continue reading