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Our first Equity & Innovation Update for 2020 is an ideal time to restate our intended goals for the year. At Overture Center, we will continue our work to expand opportunities for access to the arts and relevant programming that pique the interests and meet the needs of diverse audiences in our community and throughout the state. It’s hard to believe we are already two months into 2020 and will be announcing our 2020/21 season in about five weeks—I’m confident you’re going to love it! We are also in the process of making plans for the second summer of Overture’s Arts Career Exploration Spotlight (ACES) program and working through the hiring process for Overture’s new president and CEO. There has been a lot transpiring over the past several months, and there is no sign of a slowdown in the foreseeable future.

As we celebrated Black History Month in February, our outreach and diversity programming was stronger than ever. We remain committed to equity in the arts. Our plan is to elevate our work in 2020 and, based on our efforts as seen in this Update, you will agree we’re off to a great start! The quality and amount of thoughtful, engaging programming across all genres of art is truly impacting our community.

I encourage you to join us for International Festival today, SAT, FEB 29, to celebrate the rich cultural heritage within our community. And don’t miss Sweet Honey in the Rock this evening—the culminating event for both International Festival and Black History Month respectively. See below for details. I hope to see you at Overture soon! 

Ed Holmes, PhD

SR V.P., Equity and Innovation

Overture Center for the Arts

Urban Bubble art exhibit tells unique stories

Urban Bubble Exhibit

Rotunda Gallery featured art by Rob, Trionna, Ariez, Savannah, Dakwon, Lamar and Artemas in the Urban Bubble exhibit, DEC 14, 2019 – JAN 26, 2020.    

The reception with the artists of the Urban Bubble show in Rotunda Lobby on MON, JAN 13 was a wonderful recognition of the collaboration among Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), Madison Library, UW Library and Overture Center. The exhibit highlighted and celebrated personal stories of young aspiring artists of color.

Living in and on the Urban Bubble is precarious at best.  Being young, gifted and Black does not equate to being understood or encouraged. Moving through the turmoil, the artists seek to define themselves and project their realities into the future, owning their narratives and images.

The Bubbler, in collaboration with Faisal Abdu’Allah and MMSD Foundation’s Central Graduation Recovery Program, located at the Urban League of Greater Madison, presented this art exhibition by Madison youth. Over a nine-week course held in the Bubbler Room at Central Library, URBAN BUBBLE was the culmination of conversations and productions that celebrated identity, excellence and the powers within each individual.

Congratulations to faculty and staff: Faisal Abdu’Allah (UW Madison), Rob Dz (Bubbler), Jesse Vieau (Bubbler), Jennifer Tomlinson (MMSD), Kevin Evanco (MMSD), Gordon Heingartner (MMSD), Alison Stauffacher (MMSD) and participating organizations: Fauhaus-Faisal Abdu’Allah, UW Community Arts Collaboratory, Madison Public Library, Bubbler, Dane Arts, Scooter Software, Leila & Mickey Straus Family Foundation and Epic.

City of Madison & Dane County host MLK Day 35th Annual Observance    

MLK Observance

Kenneth Cole accepts the 2020 MLK Humanitarian Award at the 35th Annual City of Madison & Dane County Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance.    

The King Coalition’s 35th Annual City of Madison & Dane County Observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday was a success in bringing the community together around the life and times of Dr. King as well as recognizing and celebrating those who continue to champion his legacy. The event opened with a performance by the MLK Community Choir, led by Leotha and Tamera Stanley, in a Freedom Songs Sing-Along in the Overture Rotunda. The event featured keynote speaker Joyce Ann Ladner, a noted civil rights activist, and the presentation of the Madison-Dane County Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and City of Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. This year’s awardees were Ada Deer and Kenneth Cole.

Hats off to the King Coalition for their ongoing commitment and dedication to preserving the memory of one of our greatest civil rights leaders. The King Coalition, an all-volunteer group of community members, has coordinated the official City of Madison & Dane County Observance and several other events commemorating the King holiday since 1985. The Coalition aims to bring people from all walks of life together in the spirit of true brotherhood and sisterhood to commemorate the life and accomplishments of this renowned leader. The King Coalition events encourage the people of Dane County to reaffirm their commitment to building a just community out of our racial, religious and economic diversity.

New ushers join the ranks of Overture volunteers    

New Ushers

Marilyn Ruffin, Lenora Rodin, Alan Ferguson and Tracy Smith (not pictured) ushered crowds at the MLK Observance held JAN 20 in historic Capitol Theater.    

We are excited about our first group of ushers of color coming through Overture’s volunteer training program! These individuals will receive hands-on training by shadowing a few of our current veteran ushers. We are making progress on diversifying our usher core team, and while it seems like small steps, we are definitely gaining momentum. The Diversity Task Force will continue its work to solidify a long-term plan for recruitment and retention of a more diverse group of volunteers.

Black Star Drum Line performs for Kids in the Rotunda

Black Star Drumline

As usual, all three performances of Black Star Drum Line on SAT, FEB 1 were packed, standing room only! A Kids in the Rotunda favorite, the group continues to engage and inspire the next generation of drummers with high-energy, synchronized drumming that keeps everyone moving to the beat.

Black Star Drum Line is in its 12th year as a youth percussive arts group and was founded by Grammy-nominated drummer, producer and music educator Joey B. Banks. Since 2008, the drum line has gone from being a volunteer youth arts project to one of the most popular youth performing arts groups in Wisconsin. For their Kids in the Rotunda performance this year, Black Star Drum Line was joined by 12-year-old DJ Mirah, the Dynamic Badgerettes dance team and beat-box duo XL Big and YXL for a showcase of some of Madison’s best youth urban arts programs.

Funding was provided by American Girl’s Fund for Children, Madison Gas & Electric Foundation and UnityPoint Health Meriter. Additional funding was provided by Ian’s Pizza, Kuehn Family Foundation and contributions to Overture Center for the Arts. Help make arts experiences real for hundreds of thousands of people at overture.org/makeagift.


American Girl FundMadison Gas & Electric
UnityPoint HealthIan's Pizza

Hmong Institute attends Shen Yun    

Hmong Institute at Shen Yun

Hmong elders from the Hmong Institute were amazed by the Shen Yun performance. Even though many of the elders do not speak English or Chinese, the performance was so well done that the elders could follow the storyline. According to Peng Her, some of the seniors in the group thought they were part of a magical experience—literally, many members believed some of the acrobatic stunts during the performance were magic. They were in awe of the spectacle. After the performance, elders giddily asked each other about their favorite part of the show. Everyone agreed it was a great performance, and they were glad to come to Overture for the opportunity.

OnStage Student Field Trip

Walk On: The Story of Rosa Parks

Walk On Banner Image

There was an unmistakable buzz in the building on FEB 11 and 12, created by the heightened energy and enthusiasm of students coming to see “Walk On: The Story of Rosa Parks” by Mad River Theater Works. We had 4,000-plus attendees, representing 60 schools (including homeschools), over the course of four shows. Every February, we welcome this production company to Overture to put on a performance in honor of Black History month, giving educators an opportunity to use art to help their students learn about this important time in our nation’s history. The productions by Mad River Theater Works always focus on a Black cultural icon or an important moment in Black History, such as Freedom riders or the Underground Railroad. 

The Color Purple Banner


THE COLOR PURPLE, 2016 Tony Award® winner for Best Musical Revival, provided us the opportunity to engage many community-based organizations and groups during Black History Month 2020. Welcoming THE COLOR PURPLE in February was perfect timing! The all black cast of this exhilarating and powerful production did not disappoint. The musical revival gives an exhilarating new spirit to Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel. More than 350 guests from various community partner groups joined us for this iconic musical production.

On THU, FEB 20, 2020, guests were invited to stay after the show for a brief, informal Q&A sessions with the artists.

Community Partner:

Wells Fargo

American Family

Black History Education Conference: Dreaming in Ethnic Melodies    

Black History Education Conference Banner

Attendees of the Black History Education Conference attended a reception before The Color Purple on FRI, FEB 21.     

The Dreaming in Ethnic Melodies: Black History Education Conference was hosted by Overture Center, Madison Concourse Hotel, Wisconsin Historical Society and Edgewood College on FEB 20-21. The conference placed a strong emphasis on social and emotional learning and universal literacy instruction under six African American categories of children's literature. Its deep, rich sessions focused on nine cultural values that promote self-love and identity development. Participants discussed how to use culturally relevant pedagogical approaches, examined successful family engagement practices and shared culturally relevant leadership strategies. In addition, they demonstrated the importance of using the arts to improve collective behavioral and academic outcomes and drew upon students’ personal experiences. The conference is intended to provide a venue where community members, practitioners, educators and families from across the nation can engage with one another and learn how to successfully support black youth.    

The Color Purple: The Novel, The Movie, The Musical | A Talk by Sandra Adell

Sandra Adell

Professor Sandra Adell of UW-Madison’s Department of Afro-American Studies was in rare form on SAT, FEB 22, as she presented a comparative analysis of THE COLOR PURPLE, the book by author Alice Walker, movie by Stephen Spielberg and Broadway musical by Marsha Norman. Adell discussed how Alice Walker’s 1982 novel helped bring national attention to African American women writers of the time and how it put the key issues of African American women front and center. She provided a full discussion of the characterizations and themes that transcended the book and were covered in both the movie and Broadway musical as well as some the challenges that the various genres presented in telling Walker’s original story. The presentation was both entertaining and engaging and prepared participants for the wonderful rendition provided by the Broadway touring group here at Overture.

Madison Metropolitan School District: Black Excellence Initiative

MMSD Color Purple Banner

In a special outreach for the Black Excellence Initiative with Madison Public Schools, Overture Center, in conjunction with MMSD, provided the opportunity for 200 family members to attend the Broadway musical THE COLOR PURPLE on SUN, FEB 23. 

Coming Soon!

Festival showcases 50+ cultures

International Festival

Today, SAT, FEB 29! 10 AM - 5 PM | FREE

YOUR PASSPORT TO THE ARTS - Join us in celebrating the rich cultural heritage within our community and enjoy more than 30 FREE performances throughout Overture by artists who call Dane County home. Indulge in cuisines from around the world, purchase stunning arts and crafts and learn about the many local businesses with global connections.

Ho Chunk GamingcunaMadison Community FoundationDane Arts

Sweet Honey in the Rock

Sweet Honey in the Rock

SAT, FEB 29, 8 PM | Overture Hall

Celebrating their 45th anniversary tour, Sweet Honey in the Rock remains the preeminent musical collective rooted in African American history and culture. Kinetic, unique and connected, this internationally renowned, Grammy-nominated female acappella vocal quartet performs positive, socially conscious message music, which takes an activist stance toward making the world a better place to live. Their latest album, “#Love in Evolution,” is infused with energy and innovation, meshing finely honed acappella, world and gospel with touches of hip hop, jazz and R&B. 

FREE! Kids in the Rotunda: Lullaby Project

Lullaby Project

SAT, MAR 28 | 9:30 AM, 11 AM, 1 PM

Join local musicians and teaching artists for a very special day of songs to share with the little ones in your life. Ranging from funny to sweet, calming to danceable and silly to empowering, the concert will include a range of musical styles and audience interaction featuring lullabies written with a local parent as part of Overture’s Lullaby Project.

The Lullaby Project pairs pregnant women and new mothers and fathers with professional artists to write and sing personal lullabies for their babies, supporting maternal health, aiding child development and strengthening the bond between parent and child. Around the world, the project reaches parents in healthcare settings, homeless shelters, high schools, foster care and correctional facilities. Overture Center is thrilled to offer the Lullaby Project, a national program of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, in partnership with Harambee Village.

Line Breaks 2020

Line Breaks

SAT, APR 4 | Promenade Hall

University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives (First Wave) presents LINE BREAKS 2020 on SAT, APR 4 in Promenade Hall. The festival will showcase interdisciplinary works and performances from current and former First Wave scholars and community and campus partners. It will feature a variety of artistic mediums, including spoken word, dance, music, theater, film, painting, photography and more. LINE BREAKS has evolved into a week-long festival that cultivates performance art and brings the top new aesthetics in contemporary performance art to the UW-Madison campus and surrounding community.

Step Afrika

Step Afrika

THU, APR 16, 7:30 PM | Capitol Theater

The first professional company devoted to the tradition of stepping, Step Afrika! blends percussive dance styles with an array of contemporary dance and art forms to create a compelling stage performance. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to participate.

Plena Libre

Plena Libre

SAT, APR 25, 8 PM | Capitol Theater

Captivating and moving audiences over the course of a 20-year, 14-album career, this fine-tuned Puerto Rican-based ensemble of virtuoso musicians has only gotten better with age, as evidenced by their four recent Grammy nominations and world-wide touring schedule. Plena Libre infuses their contemporary Caribbean compositions with a deep sense of the unique indigenous musical traditions, known as plena and bomba, which developed on the island over a century ago. Unlike salsa bands, who usually only have two singers, Plena Libre features five vocalists singing in lush three- and four-part harmony, creating a musical representation of a traditional community gathering.

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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