There has been some tumult recently as Overture takes steps to transform itself into a new, more sustainable civic arts space. None of that should be unexpected. The debate concluded only just before Christmas, not everyone was happy and it was an issue (though not a deciding one) in the mayoral election and probably in some of the aldermanic races.
But let's not forget some fundamentals.
First, Overture is too big and with too many fine and temperamental finishings to be easily supported by a community our size. So what? It's a physical reality on the landscape. We're not going to turn it into a casino or a library (two things that were actually suggested during the debate). Instead, we have to figure out how to gracefully grow into it.
I believe this is happening. Overture director Tom Carto has done a terrific job booking shows people want to see and in promoting all kinds of discounts and special packages. My wife Dianne and I enjoyed one of those packages this last season. I found a certain affinity in Les Misérables.
Second, because it's too big and fancy for us, we're left with a gap between what the community can support and what the place actually needs to run as a first-class facility. That gap is estimated to be around $2 million.
The professional philanthropic community in these parts tells me raising this amount through private donations is doable. Actually, smaller communities raise more. Our problem has been that because Overture was the generous gift of Jerry Frautschi, we never had to develop the financial support in the community to keep the building going. So, now we do and I have every expectation that we will.
Third, it's easy to forget that last year at this time, the building had a $28 million debt hanging around it's dome. The banks forgave about half of it and Uncle Jerry and a group of civic-minded arts lovers took care of the rest. "Thank you" are two words we never heard enough of during the debate last year or still today. Until Frautschi stepped forward again about this time last year it looked like we were headed for a showdown and no one knew where it would end. That was averted, and those who did the averting had some right to say how the building was run going forward.
Fourth, the council and I worked long and hard with the donors on this; in the end, it was the council that probably deserved most of the credit for getting us to this point. Expecting its members to eagerly reopen that painful debate is unrealistic. Also, there's no need for it: The center's new ownership and management structure can work.