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Blumenthal Arts
Winter 2024
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Leading by Giving
the Leon Levine Foundation gives Unprecedented Gift to CIAF
Tom W. Lawrence III, president and CEO of The Leon Levine Foundation and CFO of the Levine family office.
by Liz Rothaus Bertrand
The recent Charlotte International Arts Festival featured hundreds of interactive art installations and performances – many of them for free – across Charlotte. An event of this magnitude is only possible with the hard work and support of many individuals and organizations.
This year, The Leon Levine Foundation provided a leading gift to Blumenthal Arts in support of the second annual festival. TLLF and its board of directors have a long history of generous giving toward Blumenthal's nonprofit mission and programming, but its latest pledge of $100,000 to the festival is its largest contribution to date. “We are grateful for the generous support from The Leon Levine Foundation,” said Blumenthal Arts President and CEO Tom Gabbard. “Community and corporate partnerships are crucial for the long-term sustainability of the festival and for Blumenthal's vibrant and diverse programming to thrive. “This gift helped elevate the Charlotte International Arts Festival in fulfilling our mission to spotlight Charlotte’s local and international cultural communities shoulder to shoulder with visiting artists for a wonderful two-week celebration of art, community and exploration,” he said. “We thank the Foundation for their ongoing support to uplift the arts in our community.” To celebrate this significant gift, and in memory of the recent passing of the Foundation's namesake, Leon Levine, whose 40+ years of philanthropy have left an indelible mark upon the Carolinas, we wanted to learn more about the organization’s history and purpose. Before the 2023 festival took place, we asked Tom W. Lawrence III, president and CEO of The Leon Levine Foundation and CFO of the Levine family office, to share his insights on the organization and why it chose to support the festival in such a big way.
Can you share with us the history of The Leon Levine Foundation?
The Leon Levine Foundation (TLLF) was established in 1980 by Leon Levine, a gifted entrepreneur who opened the first Family Dollar Store in the ’50s. TLLF originated from Mr. Levine’s desire to create healthy communities in which economic mobility isn’t just a nice idea but a tangible goal for hardworking individuals and families. During his career as a businessman, he recognized that many Family Dollar customers were in need, often living on the margins and struggling to make ends meet.

Mr. Levine decided his “second career” would entail giving back to the individuals that helped his own entrepreneurial dream become a reality. Currently, TLLF stewards approximately $700 million in assets.
What types of philanthropic pursuits does The Leon Levine Foundation prioritize in its giving?
TLLF invests in nonprofits across North and South Carolina that empower communities to create long-term change. Our funding is allocated across several core mission areas: education, healthcare, human services, and Jewish values. Ultimately, we aim to support organizations with strong leadership, a track record of success, and proven financial sustainability.
What moved TLLF to pledge such a generous contribution supporting Blumenthal Arts’ Charlotte International Arts Festival?
Every so often, we’re presented with a really special opportunity to invest in a community initiative that provides access to enriching cultural experiences. We have been long-time supporters of Blumenthal Arts because we believe in their ability to use the arts as a catalyst for education, economic growth and outreach. We’re hopeful that the Charlotte International Arts Festival will open doors to underserved audiences and represent the diversity of our growing city.
What aspects of the festival or specific installations/events are you most looking forward to?
We’re excited to see the festival draw people from all walks of life together because the arts have a remarkable way of breaking down walls. It’s also an honor for TLLF to partake in activities and events surrounding the Levine Center for the Arts. Our founder knew that a cultural hub could unite arts organizations and spark innovation in the city he called home. The Charlotte International Arts Festival is setting the stage for meaningful dialogue and experiences in a way that celebrates Levine Center for the Arts so seamlessly.
Why are the arts important to you and your organization?
As a funder in the Carolinas, TLLF has a front-row seat to the challenges facing our communities. Often, the enormity of need is startling. Our mission is to create pathways to self-sufficiency, and that starts with access. For people grappling with the unthinkable, the arts tend to feel inaccessible, but we know that the arts can be profoundly transformative. We’re committed to serving underserved populations, and Blumenthal Arts is helping us do just that.
What role do you believe Blumenthal has in Charlotte’s arts ecosystem?
Charlotte is rapidly developing; the demand for arts and cultural events is evolving just as quickly. For decades, Blumenthal has performed with excellence, attracting world-class talent and contributing to the local economy. So, we at TLLF believe that Blumenthal is well-positioned to operate as a community convener and steward of the arts in Charlotte. ◼
Make an impact and leave your mark by becoming a partner with Blumenthal Arts. Sponsorship opportunities for the 2024 festival are now available. For information, contact