Tag Archives: Overture Center for the Arts

Overture: Now and Tomorrow

submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Sandra Gajic 4 17 2019

From left: Club President Jason Beren, Sandra Gajic and Loretta Himmelsbach

Sandra Gajic, President and CEO of the Overture Center, treated Rotarians on Wednesday to a whirlwind overview of the history of Overture and plans for its future.  The Overture Center, Gajic said, “was built to last 300 years,” but it needs renovations, citing a leaking roof and front doors so heavy that many people have trouble opening them.

The Overture Center, she said, is three ages in one (the original Capitol Theater, built in 1928; the Oscar Mayer Theater, built in 1974; and the Overture Center, which opened in 2004, funded by a $200 million gift from Jerry Frautschi & Pleasant Roland).  The current facility “reminds me of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women,” Gajic said.

Despite the challenges of its complicated history and aging infrastructure, “over 12 million people have come to Overture over the years,” she said, citing both its impact on our ecomony and our community. In order to “meet its civic mandate and preserve the facility,” leaders of the Overture Center are pursuing a long-term goal to fund a $30 million endowment to make it “fully accessible for generations to come.”  Ongoing and future initiatives include maximizing equity, innovation and inclusion by looking closely at policies such as recruiting ushers and removing barriers for people of limited means.

One future program involves arts-career exploration for high school and middle school students.  As a student, Gajic studied piano and economics.  “I absolutely love the arts,” she said, and she enjoys Overture’s diverse arts presentations, including Kids in the Rotunda, Duck Soup Cinema, Broadway shows, concerts, plays and art exhibits.

Ted DeDee on His Tenure at Overture

submitted by Dave Nelson; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

Ted DeDee 4 25 2018Ted DeDee outlined the challenges he faced when he became president and CEO of the Overture Center for the Arts in 2012 and the achievements at Overture during the six-year period that will end with his retirement at the end of the 2017-2018 season. DeDee inherited a public dispute about the management of Overture, as Overture was transferred from city management to private nonprofit status.  He organized Overture as a start-up company while respecting the history of the Center and the role of the extraordinary Frautschi contribution. During those six years, Overture maintained a positive financial situation with donor support going from $12.4 million to $22.6 million; generated a cash reserve of a million dollars; and developed programming that included 11 weeks of Broadway shows that brought ticket buyers from all over the Midwest. DeDee particularly noted that the Frostiball had become an invaluable part of the Overture fundraising program.

Another change under DeDee’s leadership was an increase in diversity and inclusion. People of color now comprise the Overture Board, and Overture works with over 200 community partners to make performances accessible to students who might not otherwise afford performances. Club 10 offers $10 tickets to more than 50 shows during the year.

As DeDee’s retirement approaches, Overture is beginning to develop a “living strategic plan” that will provide flexible directions for the next decade.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Overture Center’s Mission – Entertain, Educate, Engage

–submitted by Jerry Thain; photo by Donna Beestman

DeDee Ted 12 2 2015Ted DeDee, fellow Rotarian and President and CEO of Overture Center for the Arts, (OC) gave an inspiring and information packed summary of the OC’s impact on the community in his talk to the Club at Alliant Energy Center on December 2.  He began by noting the work of Club members on the OC’s Board & of other Rotarians to various OC activities.  After stating that OC, financially, was “doing great” since its transition from a City operation to one run by a non-profit foundation, he indicated that the many activities of OC could be placed in three basic categories-Educating, Engaging and Entertaining – and then gave some examples in each.

Educating included bringing almost 27,000 school age children to OC programs last year on very inexpensive or subsidized tickets.  The “Any Given Child” program operated in conjunction with the D.C. Kennedy Center provides kids in grades K to 8, throughout the city & MMSD  access to OC activities. The Broadway Diversity program provides internships for students of color in the arts, allowing them to shadow a show director for one week.  The Tommies & Tommy ensemble provide students from nearly 80 schools to display their talents at OC after auditions before professional reviewers to select the best performers.  WPT tapes and broadcasts an edited version of the Tommy Awards statewide.  The Tommy Ensemble is 16 to 28 students chosen from the program for pre-professional training.

Ted noted two significant engagement programs.  One is the Rising Stars program which over the last two years saw 475 local acts presented and 25 finalists each year provided contract opportunities with OC.  The Club Ten Program provides $10 tickets to OC performances, via help of non-profit agencies.  2,300 tickets have been provided since Dec. 2014.  A fine example of this program’s impact came from one recipient who wrote that it provided her “enjoyment from being a part of society that I’m usually excluded from.”

As to entertainment, he noted that four OC art centers are always free and open to the public as an example of free activities at OC. Broadway touring productions have made Madison the number one market for Broadway shows in the state.  (“Newsies” began its national tour by opening in Madison in 2015.)  He cited a study indicating that, since January 2012, OC (not including its 10 resident arts companies) generated $251,000,000 in economic benefits to the community.  He cited Alex Haunty, attending the meeting, for his recognition, at age 23, as the outstanding young philanthropist of the area.  Alex sells arts and cards he designs and uses the receipts to buy OC tickets for disadvantaged people.

Ted concluded his presentation with a heart-felt recognition of Jerry Frautschi (in attendance) and Pleasant Rowland Frautschi for their donations that enabled the existence of Overture Center and their expectation that it would provide education, entertainment and engagement, an expectation that OC is meeting. The OC Foundation report and its 2015-16 Programs for the Community, distributed at the meeting, provide fuller particulars on OC’s activities in these areas.