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I am heartened by the countless acts of kindness and goodness, the stories of goodwill and selfless heroic acts by health care professionals on the front lines. I am inspired by those who have provided food for people who have nothing to eat and are the lacking basic necessities to make it from one day to the next, the grocery store clerks who keep the shelves stocked and the cashiers who keep the lines moving. Kudos to the caretakers in our assisted living centers who care for our seniors, some the most vulnerable members of our community. Thanks to everyone who has made a difference and buoyed our spirits in these most challenging times.

These images promote the preservation of our humanity by demonstrating that in the face of extreme adversity, many individuals voluntarily step up to help others. This speaks to who we are as people and how we can come together for the greater good. It speaks to our ingenuity, work ethic, creativity, innovation, dedication and determination to do what is right. It speaks to the human spirit and resilience we have displayed in the midst of the worst global pandemic in modern history.

Conversely, I am saddened, but not surprised, that our state leads the nation in the disproportionate deaths of African Americans due to COVID-19, just as we lead the nation in the number of African American men incarcerated, as documented in Keith McQuirter’s documentary “53206,” chronicling the lives of black men next door in Milwaukee, which has the highest incarceration rate in the country. If we thought disproportionality in mortality rates related to the COVID-19 health crisis would look any different, then we were sadly mistaken.

What does this have to do with Overture Center? I was hired nearly four years ago because of the stark disparities we find in all quality of life indicators in Madison and across the county: access to quality health care, high unemployment rates, education and housing for African Americans and other historically marginalized groups. These factors mirror the reason there are disproportionalities in the COVID-19 pandemic mortality rate among African Americans and other people of color. It shines a spotlight on the fact that while progress has been made, we are not nearly there yet. Much work must still be done.

The challenge is to use the same selfless commitment we have during the global pandemic to address these and other disparities. We can’t wait for the next global crisis to fuel us into action. We need to be thoughtful, creative and innovative as we move forward with our work around equity, diversity and inclusion. We must mindfully adapt to a new way of thinking to create safe community relationships and connections, using what we have learned.

When we do this, we will see new models emerge, making us better than before. We will begin to frame the thinking around what the new normal looks like for generations to come. Being mindful of this experience is preparing us for challenges that don’t yet exist. Hopefully, this changes our way of thinking, so we are more well prepared and will have safer outcomes for everyone when we face the next challenge. In order to achieve this goal, we have to do away with partisan politics and find ways to put people first in all we do.

We find ourselves at a critical juncture, with a tough decision just ahead of us about when and how we reopen our state and the nation. This health crisis is designed to test our patience, tolerance and internal fortitude. Now more than ever, we must find ways to encourage ourselves and our loved ones as we continue to navigate this pandemic, practicing good habits of social distancing, constant handwashing and staying “safer at home”.

Finally, we must find ways to stay positive and make the best of a difficult situation, until we can come together again and experience the joy of live performance and art. Though it may be different, I am hopeful it will be okay. It gives me something to look forward to, and I hope it does the same for you.

Ed Holmes, PhD

SR V.P., Equity and Innovation

Overture Center for the Arts

April is Celebrate Diversity Month

International Festival Image 1

Celebrate Diversity Month was created in 2004 to recognize and honor the diversity surrounding us all. By celebrating differences and similarities during this month, organizers hope that people will get a deeper understanding of each other.

In honor of Celebrate Diversity Month 2020, let’s take a look back at one of our largest diversity events of the year—International Festival, held at Overture Center on Saturday, February 29.

Overture’s 39th annual International Festival was our largest ever, offering 14,943 experiences. Throughout the day, the festival featured 37 performances, including African funk, a gospel choir, a Taiwanese puppet show and traditional dances from around the world. Forty-seven vendors representing a variety of cultures marketed their artisan items and cuisine.

New to the festival this year were a performance of Hmong folk music and dance by the Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program (HLCEP) students and Mai Zong Vue, language lessons with students from Wisconsin ESL Institute, the addition of food carts, a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of Black History Month with performances by Kinfolk, cultural story times and a Zine workshop with the Madison Public Library. All in all, more than 80 cultures were represented.

International Festival 2
International Festival 3
International Festival 3

Sweet Honey in the Rock shares their music and mission

Sweet Honey in the Rock

Sweet Honey in the Rock, an internationally renowned Grammy Award-nominated female a cappella vocal quartet, strikes a pose for the camera during a post-show Meet & Greet after a wonderful performance in Overture Hall. The show was the culmination of International Festival and the final day of Black History Month, February 2020. The group creates positive, loving and socially-conscious message music that matters as it pertains to spiritual fortification and consistently takes an activist stance toward making this planet a better place for all to live.

Access the Arts from Home

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Our doors maybe closed but art lives on at Overture. We are excited to offer a wide range of arts activities through our virtual ACCESS THE ARTS FROM HOME initiative.

Just announced! Overture's 2020/21 season

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In our FEB newsletter we published inaccurate production credits for the THE COLOR PURPLE. Here is the corrected statement:

Broadway show (Libretto by Marsha Norman; Music by Brenda Russell, Stephen Bray and Allie Willis).

The only way to guarantee legitimate tickets is to buy them directly from Overture Center at overture.org, by phone at 608.258.4141, or in person at the Overture Center Ticket Office. Learn more about safe ticket buying.


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Overture Center for the Arts
201 State Street, Madison, WI 53703

© 2019 Overture Center for the Arts. All rights reserved.