May 15, 2013 07:47PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Performing music, teaching visual arts, and writing books—this all adds up to creating unique experiences and media, and for Eastport resident Rob Levit, these are his passions. So much so, that in 2007, the multitalented artist and educator founded the nonprofit organization Creating Communities, with the vision of exposing and teaching the arts to socially and economically fragile groups and individuals throughout Anne Arundel County. Through the arts, Levit et al foster life skills, self-esteem, and connections across cultures for low income/at-risk youth, children with emotional issues, the elderly, hospital patients, and adults with severe mental illness.
Growing up in Richmond, Va., the arts didn’t come easy to Levit, who admits violin and piano lessons were lost on him. “I was terrible at both and thought I had no musical talent until I picked up the guitar at age eighteen,” he says. “I just resonated with the instrument.” Levit would attend the University of Virginia (“the whole Jeffersonian principles really had an impact on me. You are literally surrounded by the life work of a man who loved architecture, writing and nature”) and eventually the New England Conservatory in Boston, earning a master’s degree.
Performing as a jazz guitarist on a budget in New York City taught Levit humbleness but also the same life skills he would eventually pass onto others. After moving to the Annapolis area with wife Elaine in 1996, Levit continued to develop his music career, even performing at elementary schools. At one such assembly concert, he recalls, “One of the students came up and started scat-singing with our trio. At the end of the assembly, the principal rushed up and said that the student had a stutter and she had never seen him participate like that. That was a big moment, realizing that I created an environment for a child to succeed, be creative, and grow as a person.” The seed was planted.
It would take several years before Levit grew that seed into Creating Communities. And boy, did it grow. An example: “Six years ago, Creating Communities started the Arts Mentorship Academy, a summer arts program for economically disadvantaged youth,” Levit explains. “The first year we had 27 students. The last two years we have had 100-plus students, and all attend our music, dance, art, and life skills program on 100 percent scholarship.”
Today, Creating Communities offers several more successful programs—Youth Arts Fellowship, counseling, and SAT tutoring—and collaborates with many other local organizations including Compass Rose Theatre, YWCA, and Lighthouse Shelter. Levit also extends his outreach to Hospice of the Chesapeake and the Anne Arundel County Public School system.
As for professional and personal goals, Levit offers, “Strengthening our programs, outreach, and funding. Open a small neighborhood arts center where kids and families can create art together. Speak to as many organizations as I can on creativity, arts, and innovation.” Of course, performing a few jazz gigs is always in the cards, but as importantly for Levit will be, “Being a great dad and husband. We have a baby son, Joshua, and I want to be there for him at every stage of his life."