Outdoor music venue promotes healthy community

Sanford Health fosters social ties as sponsor of Levitt at the Falls

Foster, Ruthie

Sanford Health is sponsoring the inaugural season of Levitt at the Falls, presenting 30 free concerts featuring a diverse range of emerging and acclaimed talent.

Levitt Shell Sioux Falls is located within the South Dakota city’s historic namesake, Falls Park. This new venue is part of the national network of permanent outdoor Levitt music venues with locations in Arlington, Texas; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; Denver, Colorado; Houston; Los Angeles; Memphis; Pasadena, California; and Westport, Connecticut.

The fluid, organic shape of Falls Park West pays homage to the way the Big Sioux River interacts with downtown Sioux Falls. Supporting the concert venue was a natural fit for Sanford Health and its community values, said Stacy Wrightsman, executive director of community relations for Sanford Health.

“In public affairs, we connect our external community with the things that are taking place within Sanford Health,” Wrightsman said. “We give back in community-building efforts, economic development efforts. The mission behind Levitt at the Falls is building community through music, and really, that’s what Sanford believes in. And so it’s important for us to be part of this project.”

Levitt at the Falls’ grand opening June 14 featured award-winning blues singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster of Austin, Texas. Local and regional acts will headline as well, including Spooncat! on July 11, Brulé on July 27 and Kory and the Fireflies on Aug. 10.

See the full schedule for Levitt at the Falls.

Levitt Foundation: Sioux Falls stood out

While the Levitt Foundation typically supports the creation of permanent Levitt venues in larger cities, Sioux Falls stood out as a community that could support so many free concerts every year, said Sharon Yazowski, executive director of the Levitt Foundation.

“Typically we partner with cities that are at least 400,000 in population due to financial sustainability and audience development considerations,” she said. “However, the more the Foundation learned about Sioux Falls, its growth trajectory, the community’s displayed commitment and civic pride, and its visionary leadership to create programming that will bring people together, the more we realized Sioux Falls was an ideal match.”

In addition to being the largest city in South Dakota, Sioux Falls is one of the most diverse as well. Within the Sioux Falls School District there are now 80 languages spoken. As Sioux Falls native and Friends of Levitt Sioux Falls Board Chair Jennifer Kirby said, the diversification of the city’s population has brought with it a growing need “to be more intentional about creating a sense of community — creating places where we can all gather. We need places where everyone feels like they belong, where everyone is welcome.”

After reviewing numerous public spaces, Falls Park was identified as the prime location for Levitt Shell Sioux Falls, specifically the southwest portion of the park, Falls Park West.

‘The people’s park’

Don Kearney, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, views Falls Park as “the people’s park.” In particular, Falls Park West — despite its previous lack of infrastructure — has played host to a variety of successful annual events during the past decade, pointing to its tremendous promise as a place for more consistent programming.

“It’s a place where people from all cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds feel comfortable,” said Kearney. “Whether it is at the farmers market on Saturday mornings or the Mayor’s Fourth of July Picnic, everyone feels welcome in our city’s namesake.”

Centrally located on the city’s bus line, surrounded by distinct neighborhoods and directly adjacent to the city’s increasingly vibrant downtown, the Levitt site is easily accessible to a wide range of people of all ages. Levitt at the Falls will celebrate and build upon the inclusive spirit that already exists in this particular green space, while creating a permanent space to host community events and highlight local traditions.

About the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation

The Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation is a private foundation that exists to strengthen the social fabric of America. Through its support of creative place-making, the Levitt Foundation empowers communities to transform underused public spaces into welcoming destinations where the power of free, live music brings people together and invigorates community life.

The Foundation’s primary funding areas include permanent Levitt venues and the Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards, an annual grants competition. During the past decade, the Foundation has awarded more than $20 million in grants to support access to free, high-caliber live music experiences while bringing new life to underused public spaces.

In 2019, the Levitt Foundation is supporting free concerts in 26 towns and cities through permanent Levitt venues, Levitt AMP concert sites and the Levitt National Tour, collectively serving more than 750,000 people through 550+ free, family-friendly concerts. As an example of the quality of talent presented across the Levitt network, the 2019 Grammy nominees included 17 artists who have performed on Levitt stages in recent years.

Each permanent Levitt venue is programmed, managed and supported by its own 501(c)(3) Friends of Levitt nonprofit organization, with Levitt Los Angeles run by the Foundation. Due to accelerating interest from cities and engaged citizens, the permanent Levitt venue program is growing. Developing Levitt locations across the country include Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and San Jose, California, among other cities.

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