Tiny Galva, Ill. — pop. 2,539, and 48 miles southeast of Moline — has earned national acclaim since 2018 for its free summer concert series.

Now, its consistent financial backer, the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, has announced that Galva Arts Council will get a multi-year Levitt AMP Grant Award of $90,000 in matching funds to present a free outdoor music series at Wiley Park in 2023, 2024, and 2025.

The free 10-week Galva Music Series began in summer 2018.

As a current Levitt Foundation grantee, Galva Arts Council submitted its Levitt AMP proposal to continue its Levitt AMP Galva Music Series, which began in 2018. This is the first time the foundation has given a multi-year grant, aimed to cities nationwide under a quarter million in population.

John Taylor, president of the Levitt AMP Galva Music Series, said this is a welcome development — relieving the nonprofit from applying every year, and increasing the annual award from $25,000 to $30,000. The grant usually covers about 40 percent of the series’ annual cost, he said.

“We are required as part of the grant to raise matching funds,” Taylor said, noting that can include in-kind donations. The Galva series biggest supporter so far has been Regional Media, which donates thousands of dollars annually in radio ads.

John Taylor of Cambridge is president of the Levitt AMP Galva Music Series.

The Levitt AMP Grant Awards is a multi-year matching grant opportunity bringing the joy of free, live music to towns and cities with a population of up to 250,000 people. For the 2023–2025 grant cycle, the Levitt Foundation expanded program from an annual matching grant of $25,000 into a three-year matching grant of $30,000 per year, for a total grant award of $90,000.

In May, the Levitt Foundation invited current grantees to reapply and submit proposals that would reflect the three goals of the Levitt AMP Awards: Amplify community pride and a city’s unique character; enrich lives through the power of free, live music; and illustrate the importance of inclusive and vibrant public places, according to a Wednesday release.

All 18 returning Levitt AMP grantees were awarded $90,000 matching grants each to present the Levitt AMP Music Series in 2023-2025, reflecting a total grant award of $1.62 million. In addition to returning grantees, the Levitt Foundation will award up to 10 more U.S. nonprofits a total of $900,000 to bring the Levitt AMP Music Series to their communities.

Following an open call for applicant submissions in June, the new Levitt AMP grant recipients will be announced on Nov. 15, 2022.

Since 2015, the Levitt Foundation has provided funding to 38 communities across America through the Levitt AMP program, activating underused outdoor public spaces, ensuring access to the arts, and strengthening the social fabric of communities through creative placemaking.

A July 2022 concert at Wiley Park in Galva (photo by Nine Lives Creative).

Levitt AMP concerts are intended to create inclusive experiences, where all members of the community are welcome to participate and enjoy a diverse lineup of artists, music genres, and cultural programming.

“Emerging from the pandemic, we have all witnessed the importance of community and connection on our well-being, and free, live music in public spaces is a powerful way to bring people together of all ages and backgrounds,” Sharon Yazowski, executive director of the Levitt Foundation, said in the release.

Expanding the Levitt AMP awards and inviting additional towns and cities into the program was inspired in part by the positive impact Galva Arts Council is having on the local community, she said.

“We look forward to the continued impact of the Levitt AMP Galva Music Series, which has brought free, live music to people throughout the region and has sparked new energy, excitement, and community pride,” Yazowski said.

From Main Street communities to rural towns in the heart of Appalachia to historic state capitals (including Springfield, Ill.), the 18 returning Levitt AMP grant recipients hail from across the country — including rural towns with populations of less than 10,000, like Galva.

Relieving pressure on nonprofit

Taylor said the three-year commitment was a surprise.

“With the way they had it — year to year — it really placed lot of pressure on these organizations,” he said Wednesday. “We wouldn’t find out if we got the grant until the 1st of year, and then we had two and half to three months to plan the entire series.”

This past summer, Galva’s Wiley Park averaged 750 in attendance for the Sunday night concerts.

“For planning purposes, it was really tough,” Taylor said. “We have been pushing for at least an altered cycle, you have some more time to prep. It wasn’t a complete shock, but it was a nice surprise. We didn’t know, this was something just announced over the summer they were going to do.”

With the 2020 shutdowns due to COVID, the Galva summer music series raised money to help local and regional artists since live, in-person music was shuttered. Taylor said they were able to present 20 virtual concerts that year, and pay each artist $500.

In summer 2021, they were back in person at Wiley Park, and each concert averaged about 650 people, he said, while this year’s series averaged 750 people each Sunday. Many concertgoers come from about a 45 minute to an hour away — some as far as Cedar Rapids, Taylor said.

Ghalia Volt performing at a July 2022 Galva Music Series concert (photo by Nine Lives Creative)

“It’s brought people together and out of that has grown a sense of community pride, and sense of volunteerism,” he said. “There are a lot of people volunteering not only for the series, but volunteer year-round for things that they previously weren’t. It has engaged the community and that is the neatest thing — to see the community become activated, putting on things in the community.”

“Looking back, going through it, it’s an amazing thing we even got through the last couple years, but we did,” Taylor added. “Things are better.”