Eric Salisbury is ecstatic about being back in Madison. After working outside of Wisconsin, Salisbury, a graduate of the UW's Bolz Center for Arts Administration, has returned as a full-time fund-raiser for the Overture Center , and he's already plunged back into the local arts world.
"It's been great fun," says Salisbury, 37, who spent the last three years as managing director of the Jubilee Theatre, a long-running African American theater company in Fort Worth, Texas. "Part of the reason to come back is all the close friends I have in the arts community."
Salisbury made a lot of those friends during administrative stints with Li Chiao-Ping Dance and the old Madison Boychoir . But although the contacts will be helpful in his new job, he knows he has a lot to learn about Madison in the Overture era.
"I'm starting to find out what the challenges are," he says. "The eight days that I've been on the job, I've been talking to 30-plus development people from other arts organizations."
Those challenges, he says, include finding ways to engage ordinary Madisonians in Overture's fund-raising efforts, "not just corporate higher-ups."
As vice president of development for Overture's 201 State Foundation, Salisbury will work on putting together the organization's first coordinated fund-raising effort. And because Overture's past fund-raising has been rather scattered, he'll essentially be starting from scratch. Salisbury says he'll work on everything from the way in which Overture engages with local arts groups to the unique "message" it presents to potential donors and the community at large.
In the past, Overture's resident arts companies have worried that their fund-raising will suffer if Overture actively solicits more donations. Salisbury says their concerns are valid, noting that even some major donors don't understand that money given to Overture doesn't filter down into the budgets of its resident companies. But he's certain there's a way to bring more contributions to Overture without siphoning dollars away from other arts organizations.
"If a gain for Overture is a negative for the resident arts companies, that's a zero-sum," he says. "And I wouldn't view that as a success."
Salisbury admits that it will take some time to fashion just the right fund-raising approach for Madison. "I certainly come here with a lot of ideas, but I'm not coming in with a cookie-cutter approach. That would be the wrong way to do things in this community."