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December 2021

Many of us are glad to put 2021 behind us. It was indeed a tumultuous year, filled with delta and omicron variants of COVID-19, record hospitalizations and new strains on our health care systems as well as our beloved frontline workers. In addition, devastating weather ravaged many areas across the country. While this is the real world we live in today, the new year brings new hope, new opportunity, new life and new energy, and it ignites our imaginations about how we can prepare ourselves for a better, brighter year.

Image of tightly-packed colorful buildings packed into a mountainside

Women Are Heroes by JR: Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, Favela Morro da Providência, 2008

I recently watched a documentary that had a profound impact on me. A French photographer and street artist, known only as JR, gave an interview about his work. He talked about his current method of creating street art through wheat pasting and gigantic mono photographs. Various clips demonstrated how he gets his subject models’ faces with a 28mm wide-angle lens, which result in portraits that are unguarded, funny, soulful and real, capturing the spirits of individuals who normally go unseen. His works of art bring common, everyday materials to the light. These blown-up images are then pasted on urban surfaces, such as the sides of buildings, bridges, rooftops and even trains. Not only do they confront the public audience, they also engage audiences where they least expect it, often introducing those who are unfortunate in the world to the remaining population.

The piece that impacted me most was Women Are Heroes. JR dedicated his Women Are Heroes project to women only because he wanted to pay tribute to “those who play an essential role in society but who are the primary victims of war, crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism” and because “through the women’s conditions, sometimes you realize the conditions of the country.”

His work was so powerful because of its universality. From 2007 to 2010, JR went to Brazil, Cambodia, India, Kenya, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The focus, however, was not on where the photos were taken but rather the women themselves. In the documentary, one can guess where they are.

When I was watching the documentary, I saw women of substance, value and importance who are worthy and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. JR’s art changed their perceptions of themselves as well as others’ perceptions of them. It was uplifting to see art at the heart of such a magnificent revitalization of a human spirit of a group of people who had been crushed and beaten down so long that they had become victims in their own way of life and lost themselves and their identity in the pain and anguish that surrounded them. Art literally changed their lives. As a result of JR’s work, the women saw themselves as important, contributing members of their family, community and beyond. Watching the documentary, I saw the power and healing properties of art at work as the catalyst for transformation in the human condition.

What I learned most and take away from watching the documentary on JR is that art can lift our individual and collective spirit. Art exists in many forms and is all around us. Going into 2022, it is important for us to recognize when we see art that elevates us, we need to embrace it and allow its healing to take place in us.

Ed Holmes, PhD
Chief Equity and Innovation Officer

Overture welcomes Ida Balderrama-Trudell, Director of Equity and Innovation

Ida Balderrama-Trudell smiling in a white top. Ida has short black hair & black glasses on.

Ida Balderrama-Trudell

We are excited to announce that Ida Balderrama-Trudell (she/her) will be joining Overture Center for the Arts as Director of Equity and Innovation in January 2022. She will be working across all departments at Overture as well as in Madison and its surrounding communities to assist with initiatives related to Overture’s commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Ida is an experienced social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion professional with more than 20 years of experience in higher education. In her previous roles, she has worked with students in pre-college, undergraduate and graduate programs and initiatives. She has been integral to transitions in a variety of student affairs units at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During her time at UW, Ida served in inaugural roles on committees and in groups that support social justice efforts and as a champion for women of color in education. Her identities as a queer Latina, mom, partner and Girl Scout leader are integral to her work in equity diversity and inclusion. In our conversations, Ida is never afraid to “tackle tough topics” or to have the hard conversations.

Ida has been a loyal patron of a wide variety of Overture shows through the years, and she especially loves the Broadway series. She never missed a chance to accompany her children and their classmates from St. James School in Madison to Overture programs. Ida’s first show as a child was “Annie.” After seeing the show, Ida proudly donned a curly wig and belted out songs from the musical. She still can’t hear “Tomorrow” without singing it loudly. Ida also speaks fondly of her high school years playing flute in the marching band. Ida continues to have a deep admiration and respect for the arts in all forms.

“I truly believe art has the power to change, to heal and to demand justice. All forms of art are powerful and true and connect us to each other and contribute to a deeper sense of self,” said Ida. “I am so proud to be a part of the Overture team and help further the JEDI mission.”

Ida is currently completing her EdD in Student Affairs Administration from UW-LaCrosse. She is an avid reader, lover of all kinds of music, mom to two amazing young women and partner to a local business owner. Her ties to Madison and the university community are deep and will be an asset to Overture Center.

Dr. Ken Hardy presents “Beyond Escalation and Impasse: Techniques for Talking About Race”

Dr. Hardy holding a microphone and speaking

Dr. Ken Hardy

On Wednesday, Jan. 19 from 9-11 a.m., Dr. Ken Hardy returns to provide a workshop for Overture staff, board of directors, Community Advisory Council and resident companies as we continue to build organizational cultural competencies to better engage across all sectors of our diverse community. This virtual session is required by all Overture staff and board members. The session will be recorded and available to those who are unable to attend in person.

Conversations involving race are among the most challenging to have. The opportunities for misunderstanding, misinterpretation, escalation and impasse are endless. There is no place where the challenges of conducting authentic conversations about race are more daunting than the workplace. Whether between co-workers, supervisors and workers, or workers and consumers, attempts to constructively engage in conversations about race are often fraught with discomfort, awkwardness and a lack of effectiveness.

This workshop will build on the previous didactic sessions designed to provide participants with tips and strategies for conducting more constructively engaged and effective conversations about race. Strategies for staying in the conversation will be a major focus of this interactive workshop.

Overture Board Member Oscar Mireles honored with Alix Olson Award

Ocar Mireles smiling. Her has salt and pepper hair, a moustache and short beard. He is wearing a black shirt and striped blue tie.

Oscar Mireles

Omega School Principal Oscar Mireles received the 2021 Alix Olson Award for the Promotion of a Tolerant and Just Community. The award is presented by STAJOH, which stands for Seeking Tolerance and Justice Over Hate, an organization formed in 1999 to combat hate crimes in the community. The Alix Award recognizes the contributions of individuals who make a difference by promoting tolerance and justice in their community.

“Oscar Mireles has fostered a community of mutual acceptance and equality in the City of Madison and Dane County for over two decades, leading by example and having a significant impact on community participation in the spheres of poetry and art, social justice and educational access, and brings together diverse segments of the community through his arts initiatives and creates opportunities for collaboration and support across communities through his service to organizations and groups,” STAJOH said in a statement when they made the announcement naming Oscar as the award recipient.

Oscar has been a longtime leader in the Latino community and was Madison’s first Latino poet laureate. He has been the executive director/principal of Omega School for 28 years. Omega gives students individual support and works to eliminate obstacles that keep students from getting their GED. Oscar is also the founder of Latinos Organizing for Understanding and Development (LOUD). .

STAJOH created the Alix Olson Award in 2011 to honor retired Madison Police Detective Alix Olson and “her admirable leadership against hate in our community during her career.” .

“Alix Olson was an inspirational person in the Madison Police Department and in our community. Alix’s willingness to speak out against social justice and intolerance has made a difference in all of our lives,” said Oscar. “I am honored to be recognized with the Alix Olson Award.” .

The Alix Awards were presented at the Dec. 7 Madison Common Council meeting.

Lullaby Project helps create lifelong tradition

Lullaby Project participants embrace eachother smiling

The Lullaby Project pairs local singer-songwriters with mothers and mothers-to-be to create personal lullabies for their children, supporting maternal health, aiding child development and strengthening the bond between parent and child.

Developed by Carnegie Hall in New York City, the international project reaches parents in healthcare settings, homeless shelters, high schools, foster care, correctional facilities, refugee camps and other community centers. Overture Center is pleased to be one of 40-plus organizations across the country and world to be a Lullaby Project partner.

In 2019, Overture Center worked in partnership with Harambee Village Doulas to pilot the project in Madison as part of an intentional collective community effort to address disparities surrounding maternal and infant health of Black babies. In 2020, Overture expanded the project by partnering with the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) Capital High Parenting program to serve teens during an incredibly challenging time and offered a free, online Lullaby Project performance in May 2021. Overture has previously partnered with the Capital High Parenting program in other education work, but the Lullaby Project has taken the impact of the arts to a deeper, more meaningful level for the young mothers of color we have served.

This fall, Overture hired a new cadre of teaching artists from diverse backgrounds and artistic disciplines. They have begun working in the school, and they will begin working with Harambee Village Doulas in spring 2022.

Overture’s teaching artists and education staff, all local musicians, work with each partner organization to develop a collaborative program model to best suit the needs of the participating parents. For example, at the Capital High Parenting Program, the project is tied into the student’s literacy work with written and verbal work. The model has been so successful that it was selected to be presented at this year’s Wisconsin State Reading Association.

The most important impact of the project, however, comes from both the process of the songwriting and the use of the lullabies by the parents in their own lives.

“We emphasize healthy mother and child development through positive relationships while providing opportunities for empowerment and responsibility, and The Lullaby Project is a very special way for parents to do just that, bringing their own unique stories, dreams and hopes to life through music,” said Jessie Loeb, Capital High Parenting Program, Childbirth and Parenting Educator at MMSD. “Working in partnership on The Lullaby Project has provided a unique and beautiful way for our parents, who are teens and students, to connect with their babies even before they are born.”

Since starting the program in 2019, more than 30 parents, their support systems and children have participated in the project and 20 lullabies have been created.

“I will always remember the project as a special and precious time in my life and am so grateful to the Madison Lullaby Project and Overture Center for the Arts for the opportunity to create a family tradition unlike any other,” said Paris Wicker, a fall 2019 participant.

Two former Overture’s Rising Stars participants are creating success in their artistic careers

John Crim headshot. He wears a red sweater and has short dark hair
Danielle Crim headshot. She has purple and pink hair and bright eye makeup on

John Crim and Danielle Crim

Last year when COVID-19 closed campuses across the nation, John Crim, a student at Alonzo King Lines Ballet Training Program in San Francisco, and Danielle Crim, studying music at Columbia College in Chicago, returned home to Madison to live with their parents, Elton and Dawn.

In a lockdown with a lot of free time, the brother and sister duo combined their artistic passions in two dance videos, “Stop” and “Identity,” with choreography and dance by John and music written and sung by Danielle.

“We needed to find a way to work on our art and express ourselves,” said Danielle. “We loved creating these videos together.”

The collaborations are a beautiful example of the immense talents of these two Madison West High School graduates and former Overture’s Rising Stars participants. The pandemic provided a brief opportunity to work together before both artists returned to their individual studies and arts careers.

John Crim, dancer

John is now a professional dancer with Garth Fagan Dance, a contemporary American dance company in Rochester, New York. He is excited to prepare for his first national tour.

“This is what I’ve trained for my whole career, and I’m beyond grateful for these opportunities and the support of so many people,” he said.

In 2014, his mom, Dawn, heard about the Overture’s Rising Stars talent search. John, then age 14, decided to give it a try. He performed one of his first self-choreographed solo pieces, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day, and advanced to The Callback.

“Rising Stars was a great opportunity. I loved the environment and being with so many talented people,” he said. “Even though I didn’t win, I felt like I had. The experience planted the seed for future successes.”

John spent his junior and senior years at Interlochen Arts Academy, a performing arts high school in Michigan. His high school diploma from Interlochen proved beneficial in the dance world, helping him get into Alonzo Kings Lines Ballet Training Program in San Francisco, where he continued to find his artistic voice and master his choreography skills.

“Anything I want to do in the craft, I now have the tools to do,” he explained. “My toolbox contains ballet training, modern dance and choreography. I love dance because the possibilities are endless. If my mind can think it, my body can do it.”

John completed his final semester at Alonzo Kings Lines Ballet from home last year, then began dancing with Water Street Dance Milwaukee until summer 2021 when he signed on with Garth Fagan Dance.

“I’m really enjoying dancing here,” said John. “The work is completely new to me. I’m learning a lot, which opens doors to many new possibilities. Everything happens for a reason, and I’m right where I need to be.”

Danielle Crim, musician

Halfway across the country from John, Danielle is a sophomore at Columbia College in Chicago and released her third self-produced album in August 2021.

Like John, she participated in Overture’s Rising Stars in 2014, playing Für Elise on the piano. In 2016, she became a finalist with “Just Fine,” a song she wrote and sang on the piano. In 2017, she returned to Rising Stars with her original song “Lost and Found,” again performing in The Finals on Capitol Theater stage.

“For the 2018 Rising Stars, I decided to produce a backing track with piano, strings, drums, lots of instruments, and sing on top of it,” said Danielle.

The original song was called “Underwater,” and Danielle performed in The Finals and won the Teen Music Category. She received a cash prize, and the experience led to future performance opportunities at Overture Center and elsewhere in the community.

“I gained so much from the experience,” she said. “I learned how to perform for other people and received helpful feedback from the judges.”

Danielle has continued to write music and has written “too many songs to count.” She released 12 songs on first album in 2018, then two singles, then 13 songs on her second album, then another single. Her 2021 EP contains six songs.

At age 18, Danielle has already developed recognition in the music industry. Her music is available online from a variety of sources.

Coming Soon! The 37th annual Madison-Dane County MLK Day Observance 2022 goes virtual

Dr. Martin Luther King in a suit, standing at a podium speaking

Dr. Martin Luther King

The City of Madison-Dane County annual recognition and celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, which is traditionally held at Overture Center, will be held virtually this year. After much deliberation, the King Coalition, the organization responsible for hosting the annual event, decided to conduct the event on a virtual platform this year. With much talk of the “twindemic” in January and February and surge of the omicron variant now gripping the country, the group decided to move forward with the celebration and recognition in a way that would keep members of our community safe.

The 37th annual Madison-Dane County MLK Day Observance will take place on Monday, Jan. 17 from 6-7 p.m. This annual observance includes presentation of the MLK Humanitarian Award by City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. Noted musician Leotha Stanley will again lead the MLK Community Choir. The event will feature keynote speaker Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X and award-winning author, educator and producer.

Instructions to view the virtual ceremony will be posted here in early January.

Madison’s Black “Renaissance” World Premiere is Saturday, Feb. 26

Black Renaissance Banner

This important film attempts to capture this historic moment in time when Black leaders across Madison are engaged in extraordinary projects and service. Madison has a record number of Black elected officials, a Black school superintendent and Black police chief as well as many initiatives launched or spearheaded by Black leaders. As a result, many people are saying there’s a Black ”Renaissance” happening in Madison, a rebirth and expansion of Black culture and community. Given this premise, Dr. Chuck Taylor of Roar Productions poses this question to leaders throughout Madison: Is there a “Black Renaissance” happening in Madison, why is it happening now and what does this rebirth in the Black community mean for Madison’s future?

The World Premier is free and open to the public. Tickets, available at overture.org or Overture’s Ticket Office, are required for admission.

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

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