2022 Grants Challenge

Activating MacArthur Park with Free Live Music Concerts all Summer Long

Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles (Levitt LA) will continue its “creative place-keeping” efforts during the summer of 2023 by presenting high-quality music concerts to activate MacArthur Park for all ages, including arts activities and cultural programming reflecting the diverse communities living near the park. This vibrant, community centered enterprise provides an alternative to enforcement-based public safety and enables more families to enjoy MacArthur Park as a public green space.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Green Space, Park Access, and Trees

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

MacArthur Park was originally considered an urban oasis for wealthy residents that fell into decline due to disinvestment. Cultural anchors such as Otis College left the area while crime became ubiquitous with the park. Today, Westlake is a dense and vibrant neighborhood made up of Mexican, Central American and Indigenous communities. Despite the lack of green space there is fear felt by families about visiting MacArthur Park due to safety concerns. The pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing issues of housing and food insecurity. Public safety historically centers on enforcement-based solutions like chain link fences and policing. Expanding the notions of public safety to include an active cultural space, in 2007 Levitt LA was formed to partner with LA’s Parks Dept. to reactivate the dormant bandshell. In close collaboration with local community/civic partners, Levitt LA has become a principal in uplifting the cultural resilience of MacArthur Park past and present.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Levitt LA presents 50 FREE concerts every summer, offering 600,000+ people access to the arts since 2007. Levitt LA collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders to uplift the city’s diverse cultures, creating vibrant opportunities for intracultural exchange. Events include resource booths, local food vendors and intergenerational artmaking. The open lawn area creates an inviting space for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds to enjoy the park. Friday and Saturday evenings feature talent booked at for-profit music venues. Sunday afternoon concerts align with family schedules and focus on uplifting legacy groups that preserve cultural heritage. The range of genres, central location, consistent bilingual programming, and introduction to diverse cultural expressions encourage community engagement and social cohesion. The opportunity to experience music for free in a public setting that could otherwise cost hundreds of dollars, creates access for all ages and a healthy gathering space especially for youth, elders, immigrants and those who face attendance barriers. The concert series is a point of community pride, creating positive civic attention and improved infrastructure such as lighting, a dancefloor, and overall grounds maintenance. Park improvements and the activation of space through music and civic engagement uplifts MacArthur Park as a cultural destination. These offerings build the case for public safety to include the creative activation of green space.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Levitt LA sees long term shifts in policymaking to center creative community-based space activation for public safety, ensuring that funds are consistently allocated to support such efforts. Infrastructure improvements such as park beatification can be done with current residents in mind given the impacts of gentrification across the County. Increasing pride in MacArthur Park will be successful with the most impacted people engage in ‘revitalization’ efforts. The concerts offer joy, hope and build bridges of understanding which are key to creating a community which continuously advocates for its identity and future. Grant funding will be used to increase artist fees and staff for community outreach. Hiring more local artist groups to perform will increase awareness from the local community. Outreach efforts include more local partnerships, presentations at local schools, and volunteer opportunities, all of which will increase audience attendance and therefore civic and park engagement.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Through accessible music programming, Levitt LA builds stronger communities in the neighborhoods surrounding MacArthur Park; Westlake, Pico Union, Historic Filipinotown, Koreatown, and Echo Park. However, all of Los Angeles benefits demonstrated by a 2019 audience survey recording 200 zip codes in attendance. Drawn by Grammy award winners and emerging LA talent, the LA Times named Levitt LA one of the “55 Best Venues to see Live Music in Southern CA.” A survey taken by the service org KYCC found the number one reason people visit MacArthur Park is to attend a concert. Recognizing the depth of impact and reach, major institutions like The Music Center and LACMA, and civic leaders such as Councilmember Gil Cedillo, Supervisor Hilda Solis, the LA Promise Zone and others have sought partnerships with Levitt LA. The 2022 season includes 18 community partners which co-curated programming, 35 social service orgs will share resources on the lawn and 183 artist groups and 22 staff will be paid.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 65,250

Indirect Impact: 501,130