Author Archives: Juan Cabrera

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

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As the leaves start to change color, Levitt virtual concerts continue to bring a thrilling mix of music genres straight to you! Check out this month’s roundup of free shows presented by permanent Levitt venues across the nation, featuring artists like Abraham Alexander, Marcella and Her LoversRob Bair and more. With over 15 shows slated for October, get cozy and discover new music with a lively and eclectic selection of virtual concerts.

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From left to right: Copper Chief, Ruthie Foster, Bob Schneider

While summer may be winding down, free Levitt virtual concerts continue to bring a thrilling mix of music genres straight to you! Check out this month’s roundup of free shows presented by permanent Levitt venues across the nation, featuring artists like Ruthie Foster, Bob Schneider, Copper Chief and more. With 30 shows slated for September, discover new music with a lively and eclectic selection of virtual concerts.

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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
Historic_TrentonLocated 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.

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The Merced Open Air Theatre (MOAT) in Merced’s Applegate Park, future home to the Levitt AMP Merced Music Series

Tonight, the Levitt AMP Virtual Music Series continues with a new virtual concert featuring the upbeat sounds of California’s Central Valley Latin rock favorite Valley Wolf and a fusion of musical styles from faculty-led ensemble G Street Revolution, co-presented by University of California, Merced and the City of Merced – the dynamic team behind the Levitt AMP Merced Music Series. Tonight’s concert celebrates Merced’s ongoing efforts to revitalize an iconic amphitheater and fuel unity through the power of arts and free music. Tune in at 8pm ET/5pm PT at https://levittamp.org/virtual!

Creating and celebrating a shared identity

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Downtown Merced

Located in the heart of California’s sunny San Joaquin Valley, the city of Merced is home to just over 83,000 people. Known as the “Gateway to Yosemite,” this tranquil center of the Golden State is just two hours from San Francisco and Sacramento, and 90 minutes from the famed Yosemite National Park. Surrounded by lush natural beauty, Merced residents enjoy streams, scenic hiking trails, abundant parks, an extensive bike path system and the valley’s rich agricultural heritage. Merced has served as the processing and shipping hub for agricultural produce of the valley since its 1872 founding by the Central Pacific Railroad. In 2016, Merced County generated over $3.4 billion in produce, becoming the fifth-top producing county in California. Over the past 20 years, Merced’s local industries have expanded to include printing, warehouse distribution, packaging and most recently, higher education.

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Left to right: David Lee Garza, Shayna Steele, Abraham Alexander

As we head into August, free Levitt virtual concerts continue to bring a lively and electric mix of artists and music genres straight to you! Check out this month’s roundup of free virtual shows presented by permanent Levitt venues and Levitt AMP grantees across the nation, featuring artists like Abraham Alexander, Tall Tall Trees, David Lee Garza and Shayna Steele. Discover new music and continue enjoying the sounds of summer with the free virtual concerts below!

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With summer break well underway for families across the country and the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the way we work, play, gather and travel, many of us are having to rethink our travel plans. Whether travel plans have shifted or you’re just looking for some family-friendly virtual travel to add to your itinerary this season, we’ve got you covered! Although you might physically be staying local, museums and tourist attractions across the globe are offering virtual opportunities to explore the world with family and friends this summer. Here’s a list of virtual experiences packed with fun (and educational!) virtual adventures for all ages:

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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

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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.

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As we kickoff the month of June, virtual music, arts and cultural experiences continue to serve our communities with opportunities for connection, healing and creativity. In this spirit, check out a new round of free virtual concerts presented by permanent Levitt venues featuring artists like Jackie Venson, The City Champs and Gina Chavez. Celebrate the start of summer with these diverse performances you can stream from the comfort of your home.

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