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Ted DeDee came to Madison from a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, in 2012 to take over as president and CEO of the Overture Center for the Arts. It was hoped his previous experience managing similar venues in Dallas, Nashville and Columbus would ensure the long-term financial stability of the Madison’s cultural centerpiece.
It appears he’s done that, as attendance for Overture’s Broadway shows alone nearly doubled from 58,518 to 116,113 during his tenure, and ticket sales, donations and operational revenue increased from $12.4 million to $22.6 million. One program, which current board chairperson Betty Harris Custer suggested and DeDee implemented, asked individual donors to give $100,000 in matching funds. The 17 participants—dubbed “Local Legends”—have contributed to nearly $3.7 million being raised in the past five years.
“One of the things I realized had to be done was to change not just the perception, but the reality of what the Overture Center was—to move it from being a beautiful building with an insecure future—to a place of joy, respect, arts and entertainment [and to one] of relevancy to the entire community,” DeDee says.
DeDee steps down this spring after expanding educational programming with “Any Given Child,” which ensures every child in Madison, in kindergarten through eighth-grade, with access to performances. DeDee says the 2013 “Race to Equity” report by Kids Forward, formerly known as the Wisconsin Council for Children and Families, profoundly affected him and the Overture Center board. “We couldn’t solve homelessness, poverty, employment levels, but I felt strongly that Overture—as the largest arts organization in the state—had a huge responsibility to respond,” he says.
“The partnerships with our resident organizations are better than ever. New relationships with community leaders have given real access to people who never thought they could, or even had a reason to, walk through the doors of Overture Center,” DeDee says.
Greg Hettmansberger covers opera, jazz and classical music for madisonmagazine.com.
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