Alan Levy came to Broward County at the tender age of 2, so he can't be credited with bringing the arts with him like so many others who have moved here from elsewhere.
"Public art is so vital. It should be everywhere. It can take so many different forms - a metal sculpture, a statue, a painting. It can be anything that challenges peoples' minds and imagination." But he most definitely deserves accolades for enhancing the cultural community in the 70-some years since he made his entrance.
"As a youngster, a student and a worker In the `40s and `50s, there wasn't much here in the way of cultural activities," recalls Levy, a 1958 graduate of Fort Lauderdale High School. "The War Memorial Auditorium was our center of activities. We had a philharmonic; we had opera. There was some demand, particularly in the wintertime. But everything was very seasonal. The arts were pretty much tucked away.
"The great years of cultural development have come since the `60s," he continues. "It had to wait until people who really demanded it came to the community and said, `We need more.'"
Levy has played an important role in this process for decades. He was a founding member of the Performing Arts Center Authority, which was responsible for the initial design and construction of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. He is a member of the board of the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, a member of the Cultural Foundation of Broward and, in Miami-Dade County, served as a board member and vice president of the Jewish Museum of Florida at Florida International University.
He's also been actively engaged with numerous other nonprofit organizations. "It's something that's in my upbringing, in my nature," he states. "This is home for me. I really feel like I belong to this community and the community belongs to the people who live here."
In 2013, Levy charted a new course in his involvement when he was appointed as a member of the Broward Cultural Council's Public Art & Design Committee. He clearly relishes the role and has found it both eye-opening and inspiring.
"I spent the first year learning - asking questions and listening," Levy says. "I had some great teachers. The staff of the Cultural Division is incredible. They are really knowledgeable people who truly understand the cultural exposure the arts can give to the community. And I give a lot of credit to the people on the committee. Bonnie Barnett has done an excellent job as chair."
The work of the committee is incredibly important, he notes. "Public art is so vital. It should be everywhere," he says. "It can take so many different forms - a metal sculpture, a statue, a painting. It can be anything that challenges peoples' minds and imagination. I'm not saying that everyone has to like everything," he adds. "The key is you want people to look at it. We welcome their opinions. We want to hear what they have to say. I'm not going to tell you I love every piece of artwork we have, but that's what makes it art."
Levy is continually impressed by the caliber of the individuals who respond to the County's calls for public art commissions and enjoys the process of evaluating their proposals. "We are able to attract artists from all over the country to compete for our prizes," he observes. "We're not pitting one artist against another. It's how the artists see and interpret what we're trying to accomplish. We get excellent, excellent work. It makes a statement about the quality of the community."
A leader in the Broward County agricultural community since graduating from the University of Georgia in 1962 with a business administration degree, Levy founded and serves as president and chief executive officer of Great American Farms, a Pompano Beachbased agricultural marketing firm. He has been involved in cattle and farming operations throughout Florida, Michigan and North Carolina and developed many agricultural ventures in Central and South America and Mexico.
He characterizes his service on the Public Art & Design Committee as a wonderful experience. "I enjoy what I'm doing and that's the important thing. I hope I can help improve the image and appreciation for the arts community in this County. "It feels like we're making great headway in making this a major arts community in the country," he continues. "We're talking about art in a positive way. That's a real accomplishment."