A small city in Western Oklahoma with a population of approximately 10,000 people situated along Historic Route 66, Clinton was once a hub city where several railways operated. Today, it remains a popular stop for folks traveling along Route 66 on their way between Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Texas.
Established when settlers bought the land where Clinton now sits from four Cheyenne-Arapaho who owned it in 1903, the city has had an interest in the arts from its earliest days – it was a stop on the vaudeville circuit and later became home to Western Oklahoma’s first professional ballet company. It’s also one of the most ethnically diverse communities in all of Western Oklahoma with sizable Native American, Hispanic, Vietnamese and African American communities.
What’s more, according to Dr. Susan Adams-Johnson, Executive Director of Scissortail Productions, the nonprofit presenting the first Levitt AMP Clinton Music Series, it’s an incredibly civically minded and supportive community that has a history of helping each other and people in need.
When Adams-Johnson first heard about the Levitt AMP grant, she knew Western Oklahoma could benefit from the influx of resources and opportunities that Levitt brings. The nonprofit that she leads, Scissortail Productions, is dedicated to providing music and theater performances and arts education for the entire state. Initially she wasn’t sure which Oklahoma community to propose for the grant. But during her extensive travels throughout the state for work, she discovered that Clinton’s combination of tremendous interest from local civic leaders and community members combined with the existence of a historic amphitheater centrally located in the town’s McLain Rogers Park, which has a “stunning Hollywood Bowl-style band shell,” made the community a perfect candidate to bring this vision to life.
Adams-Johnson met with Clinton Mayor David Berrong, an active arts supporter, who shared that he had “been looking for a project to rally the community together and preserve that space and use it as a catalyst to recharge the arts in Clinton,” she said. “So I had the sense I was talking to the right people. They sprung into action and the community pulled together, securing the matching funding for the grant.”
McLain Rogers Park is proximate to local high schools and churches, and also features a miniature golf course nearby, so older kids can play “putt putt” and still be able to hear the music while their parents watch the outdoor concerts.
The Levitt AMP Music Series will feature a wide array of artists performing everything from Latin fusion, jazz and reggae to country, folk and EDM. “We worked hard as a committee to select artists that honor the spirit of the Levitt program,” Adams-Johnson said. “It’s also important to me as an Oklahoman that we could bring in people from outside of Clinton to expand their audience. Great talent is one of our top exports. Renowned country artists Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton all come from Oklahoma…I could go on and on. Oklahoma has some of the best artists in the world.”
Adams-Johnson added that they made a conscious effort to book acts that would appeal to a wide cross-section of the community in order to make the concert series welcoming to everyone. “Many people here have First Nations heritage. We also have large Hispanic, Vietnamese, Polish and Czech communities. We want to highlight and nurture each of these communities in the state of Oklahoma because they’re vibrant parts of our civic and community life.”
Word is getting out about the Levitt AMP Clinton Music Series and excitement is building, as Adams-Johnson and members of the steering committee have been appearing on local morning TV news programs and several radio shows. They’re also taking out ads in local newspapers and leveraging social media to promote the series.
In another example of the community pulling together, several local hotels have offered free lodging to Levitt AMP performers, and restaurants throughout Clinton have generously offered free meals.
To help make the concerts a place where community members can easily access valuable resources in addition to enjoying the music, organizers are inviting local food pantries, universities and other organizations to set up tables for free at the concerts to offer services, bring recruitment materials and more. “Basically anything we could think of that would be of use to the community, we’ve invited them to come and we’ll make sure they’ll have a space,” Adams-Johnson says.
What’s more, the park is located within easy walking distance of the lower socio-economic side of town and a local veterans home, making it easy for people from different walks of life to attend and enjoy the weekly concerts.
“Our goal is to bring new business and economic opportunities to Clinton through the Levitt AMP concerts,” says Adams-Johnson. “We want Levitt AMP to become that on Friday nights in Clinton, this is what you do.”