Berea hopeful for Levitt AMP music grant

Contributed photo

Numerous guests enjoy the Levitt AMP Berea Music Series in Old Town. Berea is once again in the running for the grant, but needs the community help through voting.

For the past three years, Berea has been one of the recipients of Levitt AMP grant funding, providing a free concert series to benefit the entire community.

"We've had an amazing three years but still have plenty of Madison County residents who've never heard of or attended the series," said Ali Blair, Program Manager for the series. "We want these events to offer guests an authentic experience and a true taste of Berean culture."

Berea is in the running as a finalist to receive grant funding for 2020, and Blair is optimistic for a successful outcome once again.

"The venue and events are accessible to a range of socioeconomic groups, the programming is inclusive, family-friendly and diverse musical genres, and we've got a track record of producing high quality events," she said. "These are all things that the Levitt Foundation is looking for in a competitive proposal."

More than 30 cities are vying for a 2020 funding award, which consists of a $25,000 matching grant for a 10-week free outdoor concert series. Blair stated that the field will be narrowed to 25 through an online public voting system, "reflecting Levitt's requirement that the AMP Music Series be community-driven." Anyone may cast one vote per email address, and voting will conclude at 8 p.m. PST on Nov. 20. From the top 25 finalists, the Levitt Foundation will determine the 15 winning communities, announcing them on December 18.

"Our ongoing partnership with Belle Jackson and Singing Bird Music School is a highlight," Blair said. "This partnership shows off the best of our beloved old time Appalachian music tradition presented by master musicians and carried on by our youngest community members."

Among the 32 other communities hoping to win this grant, Blair believes Berea will stand out for several reasons.

"Berea's social justice heritage informs our programming philosophy and our goals align with the Levitt Foundation mission to strengthen the social fabric of our communities," said Blair. In addition, the Levitt AMP program goals are to amplify community pride and a city's unique character; enrich lives through the power of free, live music; and illustrate the importance of vibrant public places.

The Berea Arts Council has worked hard to encourage more community participation in the arts, including the use of the Old Town Artisan Village as the venue for these outdoor concerts. Blair is optimistic about the ways a 2020 grant could advance their mission even further.

"I feel like we are still just scratching the surface with how we can use this series to connect people and build community," she said.

"If we receive a 2020 award, community outreach booths will be provided free of charge to all community service organizations to encourage more awareness and connection," added Blair. Presenting a wider variety of musical genres is also a goal of Blair's, along with exploring the possibility of artist residencies.

"It's really important that the community rallies to spread the word and cast votes for Berea. It's highly competitive this year and the more support we have, as demonstrated by votes, the more compelling our application will be," Blair said.

She also encourages business owners to post signage in their offices and share on social media about the voting campaign.

"I believe this program is key for Berea's future. It's helping to revitalize the Old Town district, making it a fun and entertaining place to spend a Friday night and inspiring economic investment."

To vote for Berea in this grant application process, visit https://grant.levittamp.org/.

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