Collage featuring images from Levitt AMP concerts in Middlesboro, Gallup and Fort Smith

Photos (top to bottom, left to right): An abandoned gravel lot in the heart of downtown Middlesboro, Ky., and the 2018 Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series (photos courtesy of the Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series); McKinley County Courthouse Square in Gallup, N.M., and Levi Platero performing at the 2021 Levitt AMP Gallup Music Series (photos courtesy of the Levitt AMP Gallup Music Series); Riverfront Amphitheater in Fort Smith, Ark., and the Rodney Block Collective performing at the 2021 Levitt AMP Fort Smith Music Series (photos courtesy of the Levitt AMP Fort Smith Music Series).

Vibrant public spaces—places people of all backgrounds love—are essential to strong, connected communities. As a social impact funder, the Levitt Foundation partners with changemakers nationwide to create those destinations, leveraging the power of free, live music to amplify local pride, inject joy into underused public spaces, and foster more equitable, healthy and thriving communities. The Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards offer nonprofits $90K, multi-year matching grants to reimagine underused public spaces in small to mid-sized towns and cities, creating community-wide destinations through free outdoor concerts. This exciting cross-sector opportunity has been awarded to nonprofits ranging from arts centers, to social service organizations, to downtown associations.

A few Levitt AMP grantees are members of Main Street America—a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that supports economic development in older and historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts. We’re shining the spotlight on three amazing Main Street partners—Middlesboro Main Street (Middlesboro, Ky.), Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District (Gallup, N.M.) and 64.6 Downtown (Fort Smith, Ark.)—bringing free concerts to their communities through the 2022 Levitt AMP Music Series. Discover how these Main Street members are leveraging Levitt AMP grants to foster belonging while elevating neighborhood vibrancy.

2018 Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series

The 2018 Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series in Middlesboro, Ky. Photo courtesy of the Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series.

Middlesboro Main Street
Home to nearly 10,000 people, Middlesboro, Ky., is situated in the heart of Appalachia where its once-bustling downtown declined with the closing of nearby coal plants and the creation of a highway. In 2006, locals formed Discover Downtown Middlesboro—now Middlesboro Main Street—to revitalize their city core, yet it wasn’t until they received a Levitt AMP grant that things began to shift. Since the inaugural Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series in 2015, volunteers have transformed a once-vacant gravel lot into a joyous green space, filled with people, music, art, and a permanent stage. Surrounding the new park, at least 10 buildings have been renovated and once-vacant storefronts are now home to restaurants and local businesses. “The Levitt AMP grant truly catalyzed our downtown, providing the spark our community needed to get its confidence back and push our community forward,” explained Middlesboro Main Street President David Whitlock. “The concert series injected life back into our downtown.” Learn more about Middlesboro Main Street and check out upcoming Levitt AMP Middlesboro concerts.

Levi Platero at Levitt AMP Gallup Music Series

Levi Platero performing at the 2021 Levitt AMP Gallup Music Series in Gallup, N.M. Photos courtesy of the Levitt AMP Gallup Music Series.

Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District
Set amongst red sandstone cliffs on historic Route 66 is the 22,000-person city of Gallup, N.M., steeped in natural beauty and local Native American heritage. Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District applied for a Levitt AMP grant in 2019, to “bring people of differing ethnic, cultural and political ideologies together,” explained the nonprofit’s interim executive director, Michael Bulloch. Launched in 2021, after a postponement due to the pandemic, the Levitt AMP Gallup Music Series is creating a shared space to unite the city’s diverse communities, including its sizable Native population. Bulloch also appreciates the grant program’s ability to attract a wide variety of regional and national touring acts—particularly for smaller communities that might not otherwise be able to afford professional, high-caliber talent. To other Main Street nonprofits, he says, “If you have a public space in your historic commercial district that needs a rebirth, apply for a Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant!” Learn more about Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District and see who performed as part of the 2022 Levitt AMP Gallup Music Series.

The Rodney Block Collective at the 2021 Levitt AMP Fort Smith Music Series

The Rodney Block Collective performing at the 2021 Levitt AMP Fort Smith Music Series in Fort Smith, Ark. Photo courtesy of the Levitt AMP Fort Smith Music Series.

64.6 Downtown
On the Arkansas River near the Oklahoma border sits Fort Smith, Ark., a former manufacturing hub, now home to 88,000 diverse residents. Its Main Street organization, 64.6 Downtown, operates at the intersection of the arts, recreation and entertainment to develop Fort Smith’s business district. According to the nonprofit’s executive director Talicia Richardson, when they applied for a Levitt AMP grant in 2019, “our community was in flux.” After two devastating floods and lingering social divisions, a hopeful momentum was building. Although the series was postponed due to the pandemic, community support remained strong. When the Levitt AMP Fort Smith Music Series launched in 2021, locals were thrilled to experience its broad lineup in a lively, inclusive setting. The Levitt AMP Music Series was “a slam dunk for the downtown and the community as a whole,” says Richardson, renewing interest in the city’s Riverfront Amphitheater and surrounding area. After another impactful concert season, Richardson deeply appreciates the community’s continued support. “It’s beautiful to see those faces return in 2022.” Learn more about 64.6 Downtown and the 2022 Levitt AMP Fort Smith Music Series.

We look forward to seeing how these three nonprofits continue to leverage the power of free, live music to strengthen the social and economic fabric of their community. Visit levitt.org/amp to get to know all of the inspiring 2022 Levitt AMP grantees. And while you’re there, sign up to vote! Reflecting our mission that all Levitt projects be community-driven, the Top 20 finalists for the 2023–2025 Levitt AMP Grant Awards will be selected through online public voting that will take place from September 12–21, 2022.

 

This piece was originally published on the Main Street America’s blog on June 9, 2022.