Jerry Frautschi, whose $205-million contribution built the Overture Center, spoke last week at his office with Paul Fanlund, editor of The Capital Times, and Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus, about Overture’s past, present and future. Many remarks are reflected in the main article. Here are some of the rest.
After these first years of Overture operation, is it what you expected as an experience?
Absolutely. We are just delighted. Part of the joy that I think Pleasant (wife Pleasant Rowland) and I get when we attend things at the Overture Center is to see the people and see the joy that they’re having, the fun they’re having. It isn’t just the concert-goers, it’s all different people, the young and those that just don’t normally have an opportunity to see and participate in the activities provided by the Overture. It really has provided, I think, as much or more than Pleasant and I thought it could or would.
Do you think Overture is seen as a place mostly for rich people, for the cultural elite?
I think when it was first announced what we were going to be doing with the Oscar Mayer Theater (centerpiece of the old Civic Center) and re-doing all of this, there was a lot of talk that it was elitist and there were other needs in the community that were more important in the arts and so forth. I think that’s moderated — I don’t think that’s there today as it was. I think we still have a job to do to promote it, but I think it’s becoming better known, and I think the statistics will show that more and more people are attending events at the Overture Center.
Has anything been a particular surprise?
I’m very proud when I’m there and I think that here, Madison has this. Not only has Overture been able to provide the venue, but I think it’s been able to recruit for the university, for instance. I’ve heard that the (UW-Madison) School of Music thinks it’s wonderful because they can recruit top faculty or top graduate students that have an opportunity to play in our Madison Symphony or our Chamber Orchestra.
How involved are you in Overture policy and management?
I’m not involved at all. It was my wish, as I said: I would provide the brick and mortar and when the building opens, at that point it’s the city or some other organization’s responsibility to maintain and to fund, actually. I did make a commitment as a backstop ($4 million in the current debt situation), which has been called and taken care of as far as financing. I pretty much have done as much as I plan on doing.
What is your reaction to comments that it is too big?
I’ve heard that, but … I didn’t build this for you and me. I built this for our grandchildren. If you build it for the size of the city today, 20 years from now, Madison could be double the size and people are going to say it’s too small.