Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Overture Center facing financial woes

With less than a year before its grand opening date of Sept. 18, 2004, the Overture Center, Madison’s new facility for the arts, could be facing financial difficulties. Due to three years of stock market declines, investments for operating costs and construction begun in 2001 have lost significant value.

One of the largest funds given to the nonprofit Overture Foundation comes from native Madisonian philanthropist Jerry Frautschi, whose private investment was valued at $100 million in 2001, but now is valued at $95.4 million.

Frautschi’s gift allowed for the redevelopment of the 200 block of State Street as well as the Civic Center and the Madison Arts Center.

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The Overture Foundation expected the $100 million donation to grow into a $115 million donation.

“The gift was placed in a separate endowment fund to earn interest and to return investment to pay operating cost,” Overture Foundation President George Austin said. “But since we started [the investment] in 2001, not many savings or investments in America have gone up. That’s the problem we face. It just so happens that we’re in a [downward] cycle too.”

The problem with the decreased donation is a $1.4 million bill due in September of 2004 to the Madison Cultural Arts District for operation of the center.

Currently, the city cannot depend on any further taxpayer support because taxpayers are already capped at $1.5 million and the Overture Foundation is to pick up the rest of the operating costs, according to The Capitol Times.

The impacts of the falling investments may include increasing Center rents, raising ticket prices or cutting staff, but the most immediate impact has been a hiring freeze at 45 full-time employees, short of the planned 60 staff, according to Executive Director of the Madison Cultural Arts District and Overture Center President.

Despite speculation on scarce funds, the foundation has not sought out other private investors or fundraisers. Austin said he remains convinced that this setback will not have a long-term effect on the Overture Center’s development and operation.

With 11 managers and a consultant, the foundation will continue to manage the Frautschi fund through the long-term planning horizon to allow continual growth, according to Austin.

“It’s [too] early to tell. I’m not even sure if this will be a problem,” Austin said.

Currently, there are no plans to postpone the Sept. 2004 grand opening or the weeklong festival of activities.

The Overture Center will boast a new theater hall, the Overture Hall, capable of seating 2,250 people, as well as the redesigned and expanded 51,435 square foot Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

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