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During these times when we see how political affiliations have clouded our collective judgement about what is right and wrong, and we as a community and a nation see a clear surge in social and racial inequity that grips us at so many levels, it is important that we not become numb to it all. We cannot become so disillusioned and desensitized that we become complacent or worse, simply give up.

I would like to offer a quote from poet Amanda Gorman who said it best, “we are not broken, we are simply unfinished.” In addition to being unfinished, I deem we are in a place and time where we are also confused and afraid, rightfully so. This could not be more evident as we struggle through these uncertain and trying times with mixed messages and everchanging conditions related to basic needs, like our jobs, our children’s schools, food, healthcare, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and much more. The list just seems to continue to grow.

It is hard for us to live in fear, so we must protect ourselves and each other. At the end of the day, all we have is each other. To avoid confusion, we must see the truth and speak the truth we see. We must take the fact that we are unfinished as an opportunity to be better, and we must know it is never too late to start.

It is important for us to find ways to use our time and energy constructively as we seek refuge in our homes and, in some cases, try to find ways to rationalize why we must leave our homes, our safe place or sanctuary, to venture out into uncertainty. I have come to realize that what we really seek is freedom to be who we are intended to be. As we begin to slowly move past a year of isolation and look forward to the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, we must find ways to bolster our emotional and psychological wellbeing more than ever. It is so unnatural for us not to be in the presence of loved ones, close friends, family and community. It is contrary to our human nature not to be able to hug, laugh, talk and share a meal in a social setting. It is strange to have limited opportunities for spontaneous interaction that brings laughter, joy and fun into our lives.

Finally, I encourage us to work on the unfinished parts. Find the gaps in the elaborate tapestry and mend them. Create unique and beautiful art in the empty spaces. Art allows us to activate our senses, to bring joy, positive thoughts and much needed laughter into our lives. It stimulates our senses.

As much as we want to get back to life as it has been, we must be reminded we are still in preservation mode. Stay the course. It is the only way forward. Let’s keep art at our center. Art is powerful because it is transformational, it satisfies our creative energy, it has the ability to captivate our imagination, and it settles us in a way that makes the challenges seem less formidable. Let’s keep art and culture at the heart of who we are. It grounds us and helps us focus on the positive in our lives.

Ed Holmes, PhD
Sr. V.P., Equity and Innovation
Overture Center for the Arts

Black History Month 2021:

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988)

Jean-Michel Baasquiat posing in front of artwork

In honor of Black History Month 2021, we recognize the brilliance of cultural icon Jean-Michel Basquiat, a Black American artist who changed the trajectory of the art world with his neo expressionist work in the late 1970s into the 1980s. There have been African Americans since the beginning of this country who have contributed to and created many art forms in music, dance, rap, spoken word and poetry—and there are none more significant than the contributions of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The New York street artist and musician of Haitian and Puerto Rican decent began as a graffiti artist, painting cutting edge pieces of work in downtown Manhattan as a part of the duo that went by the name SAMO. Basquiat quickly rose to prominence in the art world. Mentored by Andy Warhol, some saw him as a myth-making, chance-taking genius. Basquiat made thousands of paintings within a decade before his untimely death as a result of a heroin overdose in 1988.

By the early 1980s, his neo-expressionist paintings were being exhibited in galleries and museums internationally. At 21, Basquiat became the youngest artist to ever take part in documenta in Kassel, Germany. At age 22, he was the youngest to exhibit at the Whitney Biennial in New York, and in 1992, the Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of his life’s work.

In 2017, an untitled piece of his art, recovered from his in-home studio after his death, sold at auction at the astonishing price of $110 million. His work continues to increase in monetary value and is a source of inspiration for contemporary artists all over the world.

This Black History Month, we are honored to pay tribute to the immeasurable artistic contributions of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Anwar Floyd-Pruitt uses art to bridge generations

Anwar Floyd-Pruitt posing in front of artwork

Anwar Floyd-Pruitt is an artist in many aspects of the word. Growing up, he participated in theater, moving into stand-up comedy in his 20s. During college and after graduating from Harvard University, he worked in advertising and marketing, focusing on words and promotions. On weekends, he entertained himself making comedic rap videos, sharing his sense of humor while learning how to create videos.

Floyd-Pruitt’s foray into visual art began through T-shirt design, bleaching the shirts and sewing on leather patches. Then he began sewing pieces of paper to each other, cutting stencils by hand and slowly amassing a collection of artistic experiments.

“I use a lot of layers in my mixed media collage work, combining thousands of smaller pieces into hundreds of works of art. You have to stand back to take in the entire installation, but there are also tiny details in the work that draw you closer,” he explained.

One of Floyd-Pruitt’s recent collaborative projects was the Downtown Street Art and Mural Project this past summer.

“It felt like my civic duty to create murals and participate in the project. It was imperative that I lend my voice to the struggle,” he said.

Floyd-Pruitt has found an additional passion in puppetry, which unites his fondness for visual arts, performance and writing. He finds it an interesting and fruitful way to connect with young people and learn from their unique perspectives.

He addresses themes and concerns of the African culture by combining puppetry and hip-hop music, creating a new language for expressing ideas that may be difficult to express with words. He has taken his show on the road, presenting live performance workshops called Hip-Hop Puppet Parties.

In January, Floyd-Pruitt shared his puppetry workshop to 180 students from Madison’s Eagle Elementary School through Overture Center’s virtual field trips.

Read the full article about Floyd-Pruitt in the February issue of ArtsScene magazine.

Amadou Kromah:

Featured Photographer, Let’s Talk About It 

Former Overture Equity and Innovation intern and freelance photographer Amadou Kromah was a featured photographer for the recently released book, “Let’s Talk About It: The Art, The Artists and the Racial Justice Movement on Madison’s State Street.” The book is published by the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact. 

Artists, art and the creative community have historically framed the narrative around social justice movements throughout the history of this country. “Let’s Talk About It” is a continuation of that legacy here in Madison.

Headshot of Amadou Kromah

The images in the book capture the thoughts and emotions of the artists who took part in painting murals on boards on downtown Madison businesses. It visually tells the story of what was happening here in Madison during the summer of 2020 just after George Floyd was killed during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minn.

It was a time when people needed to have a constructive means by which to express their emotions and communicate their thoughts. The art provides the city a collective voice. The images send a range of messages that needed to be heard and it seems visual art was the best platform to provide that sustained presence in our community.

Kromah says he is honored to be a part of a cause that would help preserve such a critical moment in Madison’s history. It turned out to be a powerful and amazing experience. The book features photos of the artwork, artist profiles, poetry and details explaining the messages behind each photo. The book is available for free to the public. American Family Insurance wants the book to belong to the community because it is the community’s story.

We are proud of Kromah and his continued growth and development as a photographer as well as his ongoing contributions to the artistic community here in Madison. When we reopen our doors, you can see some of Kromah’s work on permanent display on the interactive kiosk in Overture’s main lobby.

Missy Tracy Co-Chairs Equity and Innovation Committee 

We are excited to have Missy Tracy of Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison take on a new leadership role as co-chair of Overture Center Foundation Board’s Equity and Innovation Committee with current co-chair Deirdre Garton. Tracy brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and resources to this important ad hoc committee. 

Headshot of Miss Tracy

Gov. Evers appointed Tracy to be the marketing/promotion experience representative of the Council on Tourism for the State of Wisconsin. The Ho-Chunk Nation says this is a significant achievement for a tribal member and will help maintain strategic relationships across the state. Tracy is municipal relations coordinator at Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison and was senior public relations manager for Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells.

“I am honored to co-chair the Equity and Innovation Committee with Deidre Garton,” said Tracy. “I hope to help move forward Overture’s initiatives to increase talent within the organization, recognizing the value inclusivity brings along with equitable opportunities for all.”

Overture Forum Panel Discussion: The COVID 19 Vaccine and the Black Community

MON, MAR 29, 7:30 PM

For the next Overture Forum on MON, MAR 29, 7:30 PM, we are excited to have a distinguished panel of doctors and public health experts provide perspectives about the coronavirus vaccine as it relates to the Black community and beyond.

The panel will include the following members and moderator:

Headshot of Aaron Perry

Aaron Perry

President and CEO of Rebalanced-Life and Wellness Association in Madison, Perry has received national and international recognition as a leader on improved Health and Wellness for Black men. He founded the Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association and the Men's Health and Wellness Education Center, which operates out of Madison's largest Black barbershop.

Headshot of Sheryl Henderson

Sheryl L. Henderson, MD, PhD

Dr. Henderson is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She obtained her MD and her PhD in molecular biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md. followed by a Pediatric Infectious Disease Fellowship at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. 

She was a member of the pediatric faculty at Emory University for 12 years, where she developed an expertise in the care of mothers, children and adolescents living with HIV. At UW, she is the medical director of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Young Adult Program of the HIV clinic and is medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at the American Family Children’s Hospital. Since the recognition of SARS CoV2 in 2020, she has been working diligently with others to develop the most appropriate response to this virus within the hospital and the greater community.

Headshot of Jasmine Zapata

Dr. Jasmine Zapata

Dr. Zapata is an award-winning author, public health strategist, researcher and physician. Her focus is on utilizing innovative, community-centered and system-shifting strategies to impact health outcomes for children and families in a radical way.

She is double-board certified in the fields of pediatrics and preventive medicine and works as a UW Newborn Nursery Hospitalist, practicing at Meriter Hospital. She is also an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health where she is a Centennial scholar and serves in a variety of clinical, research, teaching and leadership roles aimed at increasing diversity in medicine and achieving maternal child health equity locally and nationally. Outside of the hospital, she is passionate about youth empowerment, social entrepreneurship, book writing, singing, playing volleyball and spending time with family. Her ultimate mission in life is to use her infectious energy, gifts and passions to "heal, uplift and inspire".

Headshot of William Hartman

Dr. William Hartman

Dr. Hartman is an anesthesiologist at UW. He is the medical director of the UW Health Pre-op Clinic and the principal investigator of the UW arm of the COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Program national consortium for both adult and pediatric patients, the principal investigator for the three ongoing UW-Regeneron monoclonal antibody studies and the principal investigator for the UW Health-AstraZeneca vaccine trial. His COVID-19 work has received local attention and national recognition in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News and the CBS Sunday Morning News. 

After receiving his PhD and MD in Chicago, he did his internship, residency and fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester where he was the Mayo Brothers Distinguished Fellow and a Mayo Clinic Scholar. He remained on staff there until 2015 when he left to become the chief of anesthesia for Kaiser Permanente-Colorado. In Denver, he was Kaiser Permanente's first anesthesiologist to be awarded the 5280 Magazine's Top Doc Award. As his family desired a life back in the Midwest, Dr. Hartman joined the UW staff in August of 2019, where he has just been named a Hero of COVID-19 by On Wisconsin Magazine.

Headshot of Gloria Ladson-Billings

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings

Moderator for the panel discussion will be Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, professor emerita, University of Wisconsin-Madison and former Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Curriculum & Instruction. She was faculty affiliate in the Departments of Educational Policy Studies, Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and Afro American Studies. She is the current president of the National Academy of Education, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, a fellow of the American Educational Research Association and a fellow of the Hagler Institute of Texas A & M University. 

She is a holder of seven honorary degrees from both national and international universities and was named the number two (out of 200) educational research influencer in the United States in the 2021 American Enterprise Institute Survey.

To watch the pannel discussion on MON, MAR 29 at 7:30 PM, click the button below.

International Festival is tomorrow!

Free Virtual Event

Your Virtual Passport to the Arts

Shake the winter doldrums at International Festival 2021: Your Virtual Passport to the Arts on Saturday, Feb. 27. The free virtual event kicks off at 10 a.m. with an opening ceremony hosted by Ed Holmes, PhD, Sr. VP of equity and innovation, and Alanna Medearis, director of education and community engagement. Explore cultures around the world by clicking links on an interactive map. Content will be available through Friday, March 5.

For the past 40 years, International Festival has served as an opportunity to celebrate the rich cultural heritage within our community. This year, enjoy pre-recorded performances, cooking demonstrations, cultural spotlights and more by artists who call Dane County home. Registration is requested, but not required.

More than 15 cultures are represented in International Festival 2021, including Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Philippines, Russia, Spain, Taiwan and West Africa. 

Thank you to our International Festival 2021 Sponsors:

MG&E Foundation CUNA Mutual Group
Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison

Underwritten by: Charles & Barbara Saeman

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.