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JUN 2021

Overture exterior murals carefully disassembled

Workers with Findorff Construction, including Ty Swenson, right, and Marcus Buss, disassemble a mural recognizing the Black Lives Matter movement Tuesday morning on the façade of Overture Center for the Arts. (Wisconsin State Journal image)

Getting Back to Business:

what a difference a month makes

After 15 months of being closed for business, it feels like we are ramping up at lightning pace. In just a few short weeks, the boards have come down off our windows and doors, and Overture is looking like itself again. Mask restrictions have been lifted with over 50 percent of the state fully vaccinated (Dane County is at 60 percent), and plenty of vaccines are on hand for those who want a shot.

There is a renewed energy, and the feeling has changed dramatically. Athletic arenas are filling to capacity, hotels are open and filling fast, beaches are crowded and middle seats on planes are no longer empty. It is an exciting return to life as we knew it before the pandemic.

Small gatherings are increasing with family and friends, and we’re seeing mask-free shoppers and clerks in stores. Our virtual world is becoming more balanced with our in-person world. The transition to what we will know as “normal” is in full swing.

Overture’s Safe Start team is working to put plans in place for our reopening, and while we are still one of the last industries to reopen across the country, we will open our doors soon. There is a feeling of great anticipation. There is a buzz in the air! People are readying themselves for live in-person performances. It may feel strange at first but, like everything else we have experienced in the last year, we will adjust.

I know I am excited, and I think I’m ready. For many of us, we feel the return is long overdue. I am definitely ready for the full experience of community, fun, and the sights and sounds of the arts and artists. Most of all, I look forward to seeing everyone back at Overture, in person.

Hope to see you soon!

Ed Holmes, PhD
Sr. VP of Equity and Innovation

Dr. Ken Hardy returns with “Tips and Tactics for Talking about Race”

Ken Hardy Speaking

Dr. Ken Hardy returns to share his wisdom with Overture staff, board members, the Community Advisory Council and resident companies as we build organizational cultural competencies to better engage across all sectors of our diverse community.

On June 30 at 2:30 p.m., in Tips and Tactics for Talking about Race, Dr. Hardy will build on the concepts discussed with us in our first session, On Becoming and Being a Cross-Racial Ally.

Race remains a potent and polarizing issue in all domains of our society and unfortunately human services are no exception. Racial strife, misunderstanding and even polarization in some cases are increasingly common occurrences in many service delivery systems. Despite the omnipresence of race in our lives, progressive and meaningful conversations about race remain somewhere between difficult and impossible.

Our efforts to talk about race openly and effectively are often characterized by avoidance, discomfort and awkwardness. Those of us who work in public services are often relied upon to navigate many difficult and sensitive race-related conversations and interactions, often without the requisite tools to do so.

Those who participate in this workshop will gain tips and tools for promoting sustainable conversations about race and leave with strategies for responding effectively to difficult and sensitive race-related conversations and interactions.

On June 30 at 4 p.m., Dr. Hardy will meet with board members to talk about Developing a Racial Lens: Seeing, Being and Doing. The group will examine the subtleties of race and how it manifests in the workplace.

Juneteenth Becomes a Federal Holiday

A monumental historic moment took place June 17, 2021. President Joseph Biden signed a Congressional Bill making Juneteenth Day a federal holiday, the first in nearly 4 decades and 156 years after the last enslaved people of Galveston Texas were told they were free, back in 1865.

There for the historic signing was Ms. Opal Lee, the 94 year old Ms. Lee, known as the “grandmother of Juneteenth” had been advocating to make Juneteenth a national holiday for decades. Also, in attendance, and speaking during the signing was Vice President, Kamala Harris, the first Black woman elected as Vice President of the United States. What a historic moment and what an occasion for celebration as the nation turned its attention to the end of slavery and the beginning of our country’s journey toward true freedom for everyone.

It is so important for Overture to be connected to community arts and culture. To that aim, we made strides in promoting and supporting Madison's Juneteenth Day Celebration, held at Penn Park on Saturday, June 19. One of the highlights of the day was the Madison Jazz Festival.

Donna Woodall performing

For the first time, this year's Jazz Festival partnered with the Juneteenth Day Celebration to present a live performance by the wonderful Milwaukee-based vocalist Donna Woodall. Admission was free!

Woodall, who opened for Marquis Hill at the Memorial Union Terrace later that evening, performed a special set as part of the day’s festivities. She is one of several top-notch African American jazz musicians who performed at the festival. Others included trumpeter Marquis Hill, saxophonist Isaiah Collier, drummer Nate Smith, multi-instrumentalists Roscoe Mitchell and Douglas Ewart and vocalist Sarah M. Greer. Two of these concerts were hosted by Hanah Jon Taylor at Cafe CODA.

Three Sista's cart

Three Sista’s Chicken and Fish gave Overture employees a special deal: buy a meal and get a free dessert. We were happy to partake, and at the same time, to support a Black business and have members of Overture experience the community-based cultural event.

Introducing Secretary Dr. Dawn Crim

Dawn Crim standing with a Bucky statue

On graduation day, Crim was seen hanging out with Bucky Badger.

Secretary Dawn Crim is now Secretary Dr. Dawn Crim, former Overture Center Community Advisory Council chairperson. Crim completed her Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy analysis at UW-Madison’s School of Education and participated in last month’s UW-Madison commencement ceremony.

Crim serves as the Secretary for Safety and Professional Services for the State of Wisconsin. As secretary, she leads an agency of 270 employees located in five offices around the state. She collaborates with constituents and stakeholders across a wide range of industries to promote safety and advance the economy.

Even with all of the responsibilities in her job with state government, Crim continues to serve on Overture’s Community Advisory Council. She is s longtime advocate of the arts and Overture Center.

A special moment for Dawn during graduation was when she looked up at the jumbo screen at Camp Randall and saw a message from her boss, Gov. Tony Evers. He tweeted, “My cabinet and I are really proud to be able to celebrate our very own Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary, Dawn Crim, who graduated with her doctorate today from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

Congratulations, Dawn! Clearly Gov. Evers is proud of Dawn’s accomplishment, and so are we.

Cheryl Gittens joins Community Advisory Council

Cheryl Gittens sitting and smiling

Cheryl Gittens, UW-Madison interim Chief Diversity Officer
Photo credit: Anthony Cooper

Cheryl B Gittens is a college educator/administrator with experiences working with traditional and non-traditional aged students in research-intensive, career, technical, liberal arts institutions. Her work focuses primarily on supporting students who have been faced with significant barriers from backgrounds that have historically prevented them from collegiate experience. Her expertise is helping her students access and acquire higher education credentials. In her role as the interim Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion, she embraces the value of diversity and the charge of creating inclusion through efforts that address representation, proximity, and training in policy and practice.

Art inspires me, it brings life, provokes emotion, moves agendas, and bridges divides. Art has the power to engage and uplift diverse communities. As I mature, I realize that art inspires creativity, freedom, and culture. My mother introduced me to art, poetry, music, dance, and theatre as a young child. Growing up in New York City, my fondest memories include watching Alvin Alley and Dance Theatre of Harlem productions. I participated in dance classes, gospel choirs, marching band, and even played in the steel drum band throughout my youth. From these experiences, it was natural to prioritize creative and experiential learning through cultural enrichment as a teaching and learning strategy. It has always been incorporated into my professional life. Over the years, "I have been motivated to include art education in the college experience to build self-awareness and cultural awareness for college students And now I have the privilege of working with the first university program in the country that centers on urban arts, spoken word, and hip hop culture, University of Wisconsin's First Wave.

It is with great excitement I join members of our community to celebrate and appreciate the power of the arts. "With pride and intention, I come in unity ("community") with this committee."

We are excited to have Dr. Gittens’ join us on the CAC. We look forward to tapping into her vast knowledge and her insights as we continue to develop our plans for outreach and deeper connection to community in the coming weeks and months.

Overture celebrates National Pride Month

Three Sista's cart

In honor of National Pride Month in June, Overture was lit in beautiful Pride colors on June 4-5. We will be lighting the building again on Pride Day, June 28, the national day of recognition.

Overture’s Employee Inclusion Council (EIC) is planning its next “Let’s Break to Educate” session this month, which will focus on LGBTQ issues, specifically around terminology. As an organization, we continue to develop our knowledge and cultural competence to be able to be more fully engage with all segments of our diverse community. This is just another example of the work we are doing across the organization to be more fully aware of how to best address the needs of our community. When the EIC sends out the meeting invitation, they will include information on the history of Pride and some of the local and national recognitions.

Peng Her presented workshop in honor of Asian American Heritage Month

Peng Her Headshot

Peng Her, CEO Hmong Institute

In honor of Asian American Heritage Month in May, we were excited to have Peng Her, one of Overture’s longtime community partners, come back to provide us an update and perspective on what is happening in the Hmong and southeast Asian communities, locally and across the country, during these challenging times. His presentation and talk back session provided important information and insight about some the challenges that exist and why.

Judge Everett Mitchell presented workshop on June 23

Judge Everett Mitchell Headshot

Judge Everett Mitchell

Everett Mitchell, Dane County Circuit Court Judge and pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church, joined us to discuss the Juvenile Justice System and the types of cases he is seeing in our community. He shared how Overture and the arts community can play a role in healing and bringing support to those youth and families who are looking for solutions and ways to disrupt cycles of offender behavior.

The following video clip features Judge Mitchell and his role in bringing the book “Let’s Talk About It” to fruition. It highlights his passion, commitment and belief that the arts and artists can play a significant role and have a profound impact in our community by creating images that reflect the thoughts and emotions of an entire community.

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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