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« Another Madison Institution Gone: The Fruit Stand On UW-Madison's Library Mall Closes | Main | Wisconsin Will Miss Marlin Schneider »

November 17, 2010


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Marc Eisen

Paul, you touch on something that is really quite amazing -- the failure to consider Overture's impact on the small and medium-sized arts groups in town. Oddly, far more attention has been paid to the fate of Overture's maintenance staff and stagehands than to the fate of those little arts groups.

Overture is supposed to be about the arts, right?

I don't know whether Mark Clear's proposal is a plus or not. I just wish I had more confidence that the movers and shakers were looking at the big picture and the long-term growth of the arts. I don't. If they were, wouldn't funding for the Bartell, for instance, be part of the plan? Marc


Thanks, Marc, for bringing that up.
The real estate angle to the Overture gets a little overwhelming at times. Did Frautschi & co. want a hotel or a concert hall?
Or a restaurant with a really nice lobby?


An arts center can have arty lighting that is not energy efficient. After all, if the actors and audience were doing the most efficient things, they would be planting biofuel grasses and staying home, knitting. I hate fluorescent lights. Real, beautiful lighting is sculpture and should be appreciated as such. Lord knows, it's an endangered art like everything else these days.

Davin Pickell

Paul (and Marc),

I think there is all sorts of great wisdom to be found in what you're both saying. Add in Anon & Ozzy's comments, and we're getting closer to perhaps a vision of the future.

My idea is somewhat over the top, so I won't put the full suggestion out there, lest I make anyone think I'm crazy, or not crazy, or something.

I'll start small, because sometimes smaller really is better than bigger.

What if Overture was managed by a private non-profit board that was a hybrid of the best of the City and the County? A separate fund-raising arm would be needed to finance some of the vision of the non-profit operating board, but that philanthropy would be added to the combined government funding from both the City and the County.

More to follow.

Davin Pickell

I forgot to mention that the combined City-County non-profit board would also be able to fund smaller art groups, and could have mutually beneficial relationships with other non-profit arts groups, like the Bartell.

Davin Pickell

Somehow the Madison Arts Commission and Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission would both be represented on the combined board, and some of their applicable funding would feed the larger City-County Arts Co-op.

Davin Pickell

I would think the Greater Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau would have a stake in this combined entity, and would want to have a representative on the board, in exchange for their financial and in-kind contributions to the success of the combined entity.

Davin Pickell

So the GMC&VB would be able to do combined marketing, via their website, and through co-funded, and co-produced advertisements.

The 'Combined Arts Entity' could do bulk advertising, using two page spreads in the Isthmus, Cap Times, and any other newspapers in town.

The GMC&VB could also have regular ads doing double-duty, given how much savings there is to be had from the consolidated advertising budgets of all of the non-profits involved, at this point. The 'Combined Entity' ads target local folks, and the GMC&VB ads target the tourists, or the regional audience.

Davin Pickell

It seems relatively intuitive at this point to make reference to the Resident Organizations.

The Overture Center privatization folly has thus far made casual reference to the Overture resident organizations, but that discussion has centered around the existing lot of R.O.s and hasn't spent much, if any time, discussing the need to expand the breadth of the R.O.s at Overture, or within the community.

There are lots of great non-profit arts groups out there that would likely love to become 'Resident Organizations' of Overture, but may have been left out on the street for various reasons.

The 'Combined Entity' would want to be open to any arts organization becoming and R.O. of the the larger umbrella, as long as the prospective A.O. satisfied certain criteria that focused on number of hours of volunteer effort put in by that group's board & volunteers & artists. Income would not be a criteria, as certain beautiful art forms are not necessarily revenue-generating.

Davin Pickell

MadCAP Theatre for Young Audiences (Inspiring and Nurturing Talents in the Performing Arts-- @ ) is an excellent example of a group that is not currently an Overture Resident Organization, but likely might like to be, or might also like to be an R.O. of the Combined Entity (C.E.).

They currently get County funding for some of their outreach work, and they perform successfully at Overture, albeit not as a Resident Company. They're fiscally responsible, and they have figured out how to successfully navigate the waters at Overture despite their minimal budget.

Certainly many other arts organizations in the County could learn something from MadCAP, and they would have that opportunity as fellow members of the C.E. board, and from quarterly seminars put on by the parent organization for its members, which would feature guest speakers that would help foster and facilitate excellence across the board, for all arts organizations in the County.

Davin Pickell

Obviously, MadCAP is just one of many fine arts organizations in the City and County that are currently thriving, or struggling (there is that economy thingy to consider), all of whom would stand to benefit from some potential efficiencies involving advertising, production equipment, and shared staffing among others.

The combined efficiencies across various budget categories would help lighten the load for all groups, and combined efficiencies in grant-writing and other existing funding would strengthen these groups (all of them) while still likely leaving some earned efficiency surplus on the table to better take care of their staff, while still building better individual and combined arts entities.

Davin Pickell

There has been talk of potentially tapping into the Hotel Room tax to help fund Overture down the road when Monona Terrace's financing requirements are paid off. Some say that this money should stay devoted to Monona Terrace, but this argument arguably discounts the significant tangible contribution the combined arts play in the local economy, and how the arts contribute to hotel revenues.

One must imagine that during the run of a Broadway blockbuster, or during the Art Fair on the Square, business likely either increases noticeably, or spikes immensely, depending on the night of the week, and the draw of the event.

The impact on Monona Terrace can't be ignored, however. They will have long term capital costs that need to be addressed, even after their current financing is paid off, just as Overture will, and the Bartell.

Reigning in Monona Terrace into the larger C.E. in some capacity seems to make perfect sense, as there are additional efficiencies to be gained, and the combination of Monona Terrace and Overture and the other arts organizations certainly are a large part of the success of Madison as a tourist destination.

Monona Terrace currently offers free art within their schedule, including various free concerts. Pulling them into the C.E. would make perfect sense, as it could allow more art to end up at Monona Terrace, and again there could be great efficiencies to be gained, exponentially, as the C.E. gets larger.

The larger the size of the C.E. in terms of square footage, and given the cooperative, rather than competitive nature of the newly formed C.E., certain existing events that we all enjoy could become potential regional or national draws, which would further exacerbate the financing, with increased room taxes, increased revenues for downtown businesses, and likely a lightening of the load on the local taxpayers.

The Isthmus Jazz Festival could, given the combined cooperative resources of the C.E., become a national event. Attracting thousands of people to Madison in the beginning of June is not hard to do at all. The humidity hasn't set in yet, and the weather is great. Add in a world-class Jazz festival, with performances at the Memorial Union, Overture, Bartell, and Monona Terrace, and we're likely talking something so huge that it would have to wait until the Edgewater finally, if ever, gets built.

Davin Pickell

It could occur to you that as the size of the C.E. grows, and the magnetism of Madison increases, existing events that are good or great would have the potential to become huge monsters (in a good way).

The example of Jazz Fest is one that can be focused on for the purposes of illustration, but there are, again, any number of existing 'events' that could become larger (and draw more tourists), and there are likely some events fermenting in various great minds, locally, nationally, and globally, that are simply waiting for the opportunity to become reality, given the appropriate arts incubator.

International Festival, at Overture, is one example that could get larger, and greater, via the creation of the C.E. and the cooperation that will ensue.

Davin Pickell

One might think that 'International Festival' will eventually become so huge that people will suggest that it be broken down by ethnic category, sort of like how Milwaukee handles the summer of ethnic festivals.

I would fight this tooth and nail, because part of the beauty of International Festival is that it is inclusive, not divisive. If it got too big, one would want to add days, or buildings, to the event. Eventually it becomes the Olympics of art, but with no medals, just memories. Maybe some DVDs and CDs for income, but those should be pricey, so as to encourage folks to live in the moment.

Teresa Doyle

Wisconsin willnot miss jim doyle i wrote this week of the seriousounness of my being stalkedin the name of homophobia and of the milwaukee corruption that he supporteed inb thiss virtual rape of my life and then my blog is suspended.

I am tired of being raped virtually. Oh that's right they are afraid of teh truth? they will not silence me tell them that paul

teresa doyle

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