Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Saving our Shell FAQ, Part 1: History of the FLPM

This is is part 1 of an email interview with Barry Lichterman, a founder of the Friends of the Levitt Pavilion Memphis, the organization that will renovate, manage, and produce a free concert series at, the Overton Park Shell.

I've broken the interview into 3 parts: Monday: the history of the Friends of the Levitt Pavilion Memphis; Wednesday: the renovation of the Shell; Friday: programming the Shell.

GoM: Were you part of the Save our Shell organization?

BL: Friends of the Levitt Pavilion Memphis, Inc. (FLPM), a 501c3 organization, is not part of Save our Shell (SOS), however we work closely in conjunction with them. Their President, Jerry Brown, is a member of our board of directors.

In addition, Save our Shell's founder and Overton Park Shell's chronicler extraordinaire, David Leonard, is also a member of our board of directors. FLPM acknowledges that without the effort of individuals like Jerry and David and SOS, there would be no Overton Park Shell, now officially the Levitt Shell, to renovate, again make vibrant with musical performances and help build community.

GoM: How did Friends of the Levitt Pavilion Memphis get started?

BL: We started FLPM as a requirement of the Mortimer Levitt Foundation in order to obtain funding to renovate the Overton Park Shell and produce the concert program which is described in the next paragraph.

GoM: How did you learn about and make contact with the Mortimer Levitt Foundation?

BL: How we learned about and made contact with the Mortimer Levitt Foundation is as follows: The Mortimer Levitt Foundation's Vice President, Elizabeth (Liz) Levitt Hirsch, Mortimer Levitt's daughter, had a vision to expand their concert program to other parts of the country. The program which features a 50 concert season performed by professional musicians, free admissions to the concerts, and music under the stars with lawn seating, was started 35 years ago in Westport, CT.

For their first expansion outside Westport, CT, Liz first identified a band shell in the Gold Park in Pasadena, CA that badly needed renovating. The renovation was accomplished through a public private partnership between a newly formed local Pasadena "Friends" organization and the City of Pasadena. Utilizing the concert program from the Westport, CT Levitt Pavilion as a model, the Pasadena "Friends" organization, successfully started their 50 night free concert series which is now in its fifth season.

Approximately three years ago a former Memphian and friend of Liz's, David Troy Francis, performed at the Pasadena Levitt Pavilion. After the performance he was talking with Liz and suggested she research Memphis, TN for her next Levitt Pavilion expansion site. Armed with a referral from another former Memphian living in LA, Liz contacted Katie Smythe Thinnes, founder of New Ballet Ensemble in Memphis, to engage Katie in the project and enlist Katie's help in identifying potential band shell locations in the Memphis area for Liz to research during a planned visit to Memphis.

Katie invited me join the effort. We had lunch at the Brushmark in the Brooks Museum. At the conclusion to lunch walked across the street to the Overton Park Shell and the search for a facility was finished before it began. Liz immediately knew this was the site for the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts in Memphis.

A group of interested volunteers formed FLPM. We secured a public private partnership with the City of Memphis to renovate the Shell. In addition, FLPM has negotiated a management agreement to be the sole managers of the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts at the Overton Park Shell as the facility was recently renamed as part of the management agreement. We hope it will be known simply as the"Levitt Shell" going forward.

Katie Thinnes is one of our most active board members sharing her time talent and resources with us. Also on our board of directors are Thomas Boggs, Martha Ellen Maxwell, Jeff Goldstein, Chuck Blatteis, Joyce Cobb, Kaywin Feldman, Robert Spence, Jeff Nesin, Mimi Phillips, Blanchard Tual, Jerry Brown, David Leonard and Cindy Buchanan, Director of Parks is an ex-officio member.

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Anonymous J.S said...

Loved your story about The Shell. I had the please of emceeing a few events there and it was fantastic!
I've been listening to
and as a transported Memphian, it takes me right there.

11:30 AM  

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