Wednesday, September 30, 2009

O Overture, my Overture

I have been known to make less than complimentary statements about the Overture Center. I have been taken to task over that fact several times. But I will admit that my opinion of the place has softened quite a bit over the years, moving from the frustration and annoyance I felt when several great local businesses were ousted to make room for the Jello-mould-and-white-walls structure, to a somewhat grudging appreciation for the efforts being made to better reach out to the community and bring in a wider variety of events.

I still don't like the aesthetic design of the exterior, but that's neither here nor there when it comes to the long-term financial stability of what has the potential to either be a strong centerpiece of the downtown, or a sucking black hole of city dollars.

According to an article posted today on Channel3000, in a bid to restructure and give the OC a brighter future, a consultant has been hired to explore various public/private models of operation. That's a good move, and it's bolstered by the fact that "Overture publicist Rob Chappell said that the private 201 State Foundation, the Overture's fundraising arm, paid for the study -- not taxpayer dollars." Right now, the OC needs to do its damnedest to project fiscal responsibility to a public weary of taxpayer funded bailouts.

AMS Planning and Research, the consultant doing the study, said private-public or totally private arts centers have the greatest fundraising opportunities. The consultant also said Overture was about average when compared to six other similar arts facilities in the U.S. However, the consultant said the facility fell below average in a number of areas including marketing, fundraising and ticket prices and higher than average in cleaning/maintenance costs.
So there are areas that they're doing all right in, and several others that need work. Having the latter called out publicly is a good first step toward making sure that real, meaningful changes are made to create a more stable environment at the center.

There have been several major missteps made in the past with regards to how things are run over there, but I've been encouraged by the changes I've seen recently. There appears to be a greater effort at community outreach and publicity. Several local theatre and music groups enjoy the OC as their base of operations. The presentation of the headlining act of this year's Forward Music Fest at Overture Hall was an encouraging sign, too. I know there are people working for the center that really care about the community and about making the center an important part of it, so I'm willing to concede that I have perhaps been a little too prone to harsh generalizations in the past. That's not to say that certain criticisms weren't extremely warranted, but I will also do my best to give credit where credit is due.

But they will still need to work hard at finding ways to attract more people in these tough times, which means offering more events with lower ticket prices. And they'll need to do some serious cost cutting, all without negatively impacting the quality and quantity of events offered. It'll be a tricky balance, to be sure, but one that won't be struck without first coming to terms with some hard truths. I'm hopeful that the consultant's reports will help them go down that path.

(photo by MandaRose on Flickr)

1 comment:

Palmer said...

I am pleased to read that your fearful trip is done. ;)

The Lost Albatross