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Community Spotlight: Fostering Vibrant Main Streets through Free, Live Music

  
June 9, 2022 | Community Spotlight: Fostering Vibrant Main Streets through Free, Live Music | By: Nicole McGaffey, Senior Communications Manager at the Levitt Foundation | 

The 2018 Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series (photos courtesy of the Levitt AMP Middlesboro Music Series); 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. Three Main Street America members—Middlesboro Main Street (Middlesboro, Ky.), Gallup MainStreet Arts & Cultural District (Gallup, N.M.) and 64.6 Downtown (Fort Smith, Ark.)—are recipients of Levitt’s creative placemaking grant for small to mid-sized towns and cities: the Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards. Levitt AMP offers nonprofits $90K, multi-year matching grants to reimagine underused public spaces, creating community-wide destinations through free outdoor concerts. Discover how these Main Street members are leveraging Levitt AMP grants to foster belonging while elevating neighborhood vibrancy.

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 >

 

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 >

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. With 2022 concerts underway, Richardson deeply appreciates the community’s continued support. “It’s beautiful to see those faces return in 2022.” Learn more >

 

Are you interested in leveraging the power of free, live music to strengthen the social and economic fabric of your community? Visit levitt.org/amp to learn more about the Levitt AMP grant program, awarding $90K multi-year matching grants to nonprofits. 2023–2025 applications close June 30.


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