Have you ever wondered what goes into planning a free outdoor concert series, like the kind that takes place at Levitt venues and concert sites across the country? Well, you’re in the right place—and so were attendees of the 2024 Creative Placemaking Summit South & Appalachia, which unfolded in March in Atlanta, where creative placemaking professionals had the opportunity to learn directly from five members of the Levitt Foundation team during our three-part training series on how to plan and produce free outdoor concerts in public spaces that foster equitable, healthy, and thriving communities.

In other words: the Levitt Model, illuminated.

While the Levitt Foundation has long equipped its grantees with trainings, tools, and resources through annual gatherings, convenings, and town halls, this was the Foundation’s first time presenting an in-depth training on the Levitt Model for non-Levitt grantees. And what better place to launch the Levitt Model Training Series than at the Creative Placemaking Communities Summit, which Levitt has proudly supported since 2018. Presented by Creative Placemaking Communities—a national nonprofit that helps arts and culture advocates shape communities into more sustainable, prosperous, and resilient places—the 2024 summit gathered 400+ creative placemakers, including artists, designers, architects, arts administrators, and community- and economic-development professionals, for three days of workshops, peer-to-peer panels, offsite tours, a Levitt-sponsored artist performance and conversation (featuring the captivating Magnolias!), and more.

A group of diverse people sit in chairs inside a building, conversing with each other.

In March, attendees of the Levitt Model Training Series—a three-part learning presented at the 2024 South & Appalachia Creative Placemaking Summit in Atlanta—were given the opportunity to hear from five members of the Levitt Foundation team on how to foster equitable, healthy, and thriving communities by planning and producing free outdoor concerts in public spaces.

The Levitt Model trainings were both an insightful discussion on how free outdoor concerts create layers of dynamic social and economic impact in neighborhoods, cities, and towns and a practical how-to guide for harnessing the power of free, live music to strengthen communities. Over three days, five Levitt Foundation team members—including CEO Sharon Yazowski, Executive Vice President Vanessa Silberman, Vice President of Programs Victoria Bridenstine, Senior Programs Manager Kimberly James, and Levitt Artist Booking & Routing Consultant Anne Sturm—led participants through a bevy of topics relevant to developing a free, community-driven concert series, including programming and co-creation, artist booking and curation, partnerships, marketing, outreach, volunteer engagement, fundraising, and public safety. Over 100 creative placemaking practitioners from throughout the region attended each training for shared learning, including ample time for Q&A with Foundation staff and connecting with peers through interactive breakouts.

“Over the past two decades of partnering with diverse communities across the country, we’ve witnessed in real-time how Levitt programs foster joy, create a sense of belonging, build social capital, and increase community resiliency and economic opportunity,” Yazowski explained. “With our spend down, we’re committed to expanding the movement for free concerts in public spaces to create positive change, so we’re equipping individuals and nonprofits with resources and knowledge connecting free concerts to dynamic impact.”

The first day, “The Power of Free, Live Music to Build Inclusive, Thriving Public Spaces,” took a deep dive into best practices and strategies for curating a free outdoor music series as a holistic reflection of one’s community—from the artist lineup to site activation—connecting people to place and to each other while building social capital and contributing to economic vitality. The second day, “Amplify Reach and Deepening Community Engagement through Partnerships & Marketing,” honed in on key recommendations for building community-centered, cross-sector partnerships to activate public spaces and curate culturally relevant programming to advance shared community priorities; the session also provided advice for leveraging out-of-the-box marketing strategies to broaden reach and generate community buzz and excitement.

Day three’s “Creating A Welcoming Atmosphere & Win-Win Fundraising Strategies” focused on the nuts and bolts of raising funds to support and sustain a free outdoor music series through sponsorships, grant opportunities, and individual donors, highlighting the range of potential funding sources across industries and sectors. The session also explored vendor management, volunteer engagement, and public safety through the lens of equity and inclusion to foster belonging.

Throughout the three days of trainings, attendees had the opportunity to download a free Music Series Toolkit created by the Levitt Foundation: a comprehensive handbook detailing everything folks need to know to launch an impactful free outdoor music series in their communities, including in-depth technical insights and best practices on artist booking and curation, marketing and communications, fundraising strategies, general operations, and more.

With support from the Levitt Foundation, Magnolias’ members Marcella Simien and Anne Harris performed their arresting blend of Creole, soul, blues, folk, and other American roots sounds at this year’s South & Appalachia Creative Placemaking Summit.

The toolkit is based on the Levitt AMP Toolkit, which was first created back in 2015 as a resource for Levitt grantees, many of whom were presenting a free outdoor concert series for the first time. “Over the years, the toolkit has evolved based on shared learnings, feedback and conversations with Levitt AMP grantees regarding what types of information would be most helpful,” said Silberman. “In line with Levitt’s commitment to strengthening the social fabric of America, we’re thrilled to share this valuable resource with the wider field to help in planning impactful free outdoor music series in communities across the country.”

Beyond the trainings and toolkit, the Levitt Foundation also supported an electrifying performance and conversation with Levitt artist Magnolias, comprising singer-songwriters Marcella Simien and Anne Harris. Creating powerful roots and folk music, the artists commanded the room of more than 400 attendees—reminding everyone, in real time, of the power of music to spark joy and connection among people of all backgrounds. While dates for next year’s Creative Placemaking Summit have yet to be announced, the Levitt Foundation looks forward to our continued partnership with Creative Placemaking Communities as they support changemakers to drive positive change.