What's right with Overture
In "Madison's Overture to the World" (Opinion, 10/7/10), Pam Murtaugh offers a surprisingly grim and inaccurate account of the Madison Opera prior to the Pleasant Rowland Great Performance Fund. In addressing Rowland's generosity, Murtaugh opines that "[These] heroic measures revived Madison Opera."
To be sure, the Great Performance Fund was, and continues to be, an extraordinary gift to the Opera and to all Overture resident companies. But, contrary to Murtaugh's assertion, in the years just preceding the fund's 2001 launch, Madison Opera posted consecutive annual surpluses - hardly an indicator of needing to be "revived."
In addition, box office receipts were entirely respectable and reviews demonstrate critical acclaim for the professional productions and world-renowned artists featured in those Opera seasons. And, since the opening of the Overture Center, the Opera has realized unprecedented growth both onstage and off, recently achieving its fifth consecutive season with a balanced budget.
Allan Naplan, general director, Madison Opera
Pam Murtaugh's call for a "dream-based strategy" to energize Overture reminded me of a recent CBS Sunday Morning feature on an annual competition in Grand Rapids, Mich. ArtPrize entices artists from around the world to compete for monetary prizes of up to $250,000. Artists exhibit original works in a variety of media throughout a three-block area in the city's downtown. Community members and visitors participate in the creative process, interact with the artists and select awardees.
Granted, Madison currently celebrates the arts in many ways, including the art fairs on and off the Square, which generate community participation and lure visitors. But I agree with Ms. Murtaugh that we need to inspire enchantment and joyful community participation to bring the Overture Center to life. Perhaps an extended downtown exhibition similar to ArtPrize could help situate the Overture Center (as its preeminent venue) as "the crown jewel" of the rich arts environment that Ms. Murtaugh envisions.
Patricia L. Eldred
Last year, while at Beloit College, I got an inside view of Overture Center through an internship. Being surrounded by people working to make events come to life was an incredible experience. I came into the highly criticized "Taj Mahal of the arts" as an outsider and left with a much better understanding of its positive aspects and issues.
I ask Isthmus and its readers not to judge Overture. Go on a Saturday and watch every space in the venue being used. See who is using it. Realize how lucky this city is.
Madison has been so obsessed with arguing that it has blinded itself from working through the problems. There is a bright future for downtown Madison and Overture. In fact, the city shines right now. Take a step back and see how magical this place is.
Alex Catalan, Beloit
The case against our Senate story
If Wisconsin ends up being represented in the U.S. Senate by a big-money know-nothing who buys the election, it will be due to facile and empty judgments like those expressed by Christian Schneider, whose principal reason for disliking Feingold is that he doesn't like his commercials ("May the Worst Man Lose," 10/8/10, "The Case Against Russ Feingold," 10/8/10). Ron Johnson's record? Never mentioned. Qualifications? He doesn't need the job(!) If this is how people decide how to vote, it's no wonder we're in trouble.
In "The Case Against Ron Johnson," 10/8/10, Ruth Conniff left out major items regarding Ron Johnson's (lack of) morality. As a member of the Green Bay Archdiocese finance committee, Johnson testified before the Wisconsin state Senate against removing the statute of limitation for child sexual assaulters, saying doing so would cost money. He obviously favors money over justice for child sexual predators.
Moreover, two of Johnson's businesses employ work-release prisoners whose health care is paid for by the state. Ron apparently favors government spending when it benefits him. As an employer who knows "how to create jobs," he should pay these workers decent wages and benefits.
George Parrino, Oconomowoc
The pro-Johnson article gives three reasons to vote for Ron Johnson: He's plainspoken, has experience working, and because he doesn't need the money will not be swayed by campaign contributions. The first two qualities you can find in any bar. The third just means he can't be corrupted into backing bad policies; he's capable of doing that with his own money.
Am I supposed to be impressed by my local paper running front-page smear articles in the "spirit" of the intense hyperbole that grips the national discourse? I was not. I would suggest rising above the garbage heap instead of diving into it.
Cody Richard Lemke