Studying Creative Placemaking Outcomes with Levitt Pavilions

August 01, 2013

Levitt Pavilions, a national nonprofit organization that partners with cities to transform neglected public spaces into thriving destinations through the power of free, live music, has selected Slover Linett to help assess the social impact of its work. The firm, in partnership with Indiana University arts management professor Joanna Workonkowicz, will be conducting a multi-year, mixed-methods study of the effects of the Levitt program in local communities.

Levitt Pavilions forms the only national network of outdoor music venues presenting free concert series. Each presents 50 free concerts annually featuring a range of acclaimed talent in an open lawn setting. Levitt venues are currently located in six cities: Los Angeles and Pasadena; Westport, CT; Bethlehem, PA; Memphis; and Arlington, TX, with a seventh site under development in Denver. Each venue is managed and programmed by a local Friends of Levitt nonprofit organization and offers free admission, easy access, a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere, and social spaces for people to interact—all hallmarks of a meaningful “third place” in the community. (The phrase is used by sociologists and urban planners to describe gathering spaces that are distinct from home and work.)

The national Levitt Pavilions team has engaged Slover Linett to evaluate the impact of these pavilions in their local communities. The study falls into the category of “creative placemaking” outcomes assessment, since the pavilions are examples of how the arts can be leveraged to revitalize neighborhoods, deepen social ties, improve livability, and contribute to economic growth. Slover Linett believes strongly in the creative placemaking movement and looks forward to contributing to the field’s knowledge about these important but sometimes intangible outcomes.

“The success of Levitt venues nationwide is inspiring our network’s growth,” says Sharon Yazowski, executive director of Levitt Pavilions. “As we prepare to serve more cities in need, this study is an incredible opportunity to take a step back and assess the impact of Levitt Pavilions as a placemaker. We’re honored to partner with Slover Linett, a team of highly respected researchers in the field of arts and culture.”

Sarah Lee, Slover Linett’s vice president for arts and culture, adds, “Creative placemaking has usually been studied using secondary data, like property values, crime rates, and tax revenues. This is an exciting opportunity to combine that kind of data with new, primary research among the people on the ground: concert audiences and neighborhood residents. We’ll be able to ask them directly how the pavilion has affected their lives and their communities.”

Working with Lee will be two other Boston-based Slover Linett staff—associate Dreolin Fleischer and research manager Eric LaPlant. Their work will focus on the Pasadena and Memphis sites and will include surveys, ethnographic observation, and interviews at the pavilions, as well as conversations with local stakeholders and focus groups with community members. The study will also involve a pre/post community outcomes study in Denver with data gathered before and after the new pavilion is built.

To provide guidance and counsel throughout the study, we’ve assembled a nationally renowned team of advisors: Roberto Bedoya (Tucson Pima Arts Council), Anne Gadwa Nicodemus (Metris Arts Consulting), Ian David Moss (Fractured Atlas), and Dr. Michael Rushton (Indiana University School of Public & Environment Affairs).

Separately, Dr. Joanna Woronkowicz, an expert in cultural policy, urban policy, and quantitative research methods, will conduct a multi-level impact study of all six existing Levitt venues using a quasi-experimental design and secondary data analysis.

The study is supported by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation and the Bruner Foundation. Levitt Pavilions continues to seek additional funding from other sources.

For more information about Slover Linett’s research and evaluation practice in the arts, please contact Sarah Lee at (773) 348-9200 x104 or by email.

Category: Performing arts

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