Good news came from the Madison Board of Estimates this week when it was reported that $150,000 in additional funding was provided for the Overture Center. The funding for Overture is now at $1.6 million for the this city budget. Thankfully funding is not a political piñata as it was last year at this time. Though there is roughly $150,000 less in city funding this year than last the lack of rancor led by Mayor Paul Soglin has been greeted with smiles all around.
Even though there is mostly harmony among those fashioning a city budget there is angst and disagreements from some in the electorate as to the level of funding that the Overture receives. As much as I have listened as some try to spin their point of view it never makes any sense.
There is not a city our size in the nation that would not drool heavy for the chance to have a performing arts center of the type we enjoy. Or the fact that this building was presented to the city as a gift. There is a not place in the nation that would not love to have our symphony orchestra or our chamber orchestra play in such a building. Yet there is the chorus from some that the Overture is a place for rich white people.
There is no way to deny the benefits that the arts provides to a community with continuing economic energy. I would argue even more importantly ihe arts provides to individuals texture about life, awakening of the senses, and adds insight about how we feel and interact with sights and sounds. In a nutshell the are essential to being a well-rounded person, and a harmonious community.
As such I very much favor the path that was taken this year by the leaders of Madison to make sure funding was allowed without the tension as to why it is necessary.
I am sure many will not agree with the majorities assessment about the need for Overture receiving city funding. I just happen to feel the arts are something that society should support, as it does make us better as a people
I also reject the idea from some that there are no shows ‘they can afford’. That is just absurd on the face of it.
I recently had a conversation with someone who tried to make that case to me. It might have been more persuasive had I not already known that several times a month this person goes to movies and enjoys popcorn and pop while the motion picture plays. I love film too , and certainly think movies are a great way to spend time. But if one adds up the amount of money that person spent on films in a month it quickly becomes clear that there was money for a ticket to the Madison symphony.
The same might be said for the person has season tickets for the Badgers, or spends 30 dollars on a Saturday night at the bar for drinks and tips.
It all comes down to priorities.
While everyone can have the fun in the way they desire, I find it unacceptable to have it argued that tickets to Overture events are too costly when spending money on other forms of entertainment is not a problem.
At the end of this budget cycle I hope our leaders will come to appreciate the calm that was the result of coming together to form an understanding about the need for Overture funding.