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Nov 2, 201701:13 PMMosaic Marketplace

with Deborah Biddle — A blog for diverse business enterprises in and around Madison.

Community and collaboration: Keys to enhancing diversity at performing arts centers

(page 4 of 4)

DB:  My family and I have lived here now for 11 years, and I never felt like the programming wasn’t inclusive. There was always a little something for everybody, though not well attended by people of color.

EH: That’s the rub. You just said it. It wasn’t well attended. It’s a travesty to me to have all this great programming — and some of it is free — and folks don’t attend. For folks not to be aware of it — for whatever reason, whether marketing strategies that are being used or perceptions in the community that Overture Center was not necessarily a place for them. As another example, Diana Ross was here. She’s one of the all-time great R&B icons. When she was here, there was hardly anyone of color in the audience.

DB: What’s the biggest challenge for you in terms of specifically partnering with businesses in the community and minority businesses?

EH: That’s a good question. It’s about finding an entry point with businesses that make sense. With Ed Shinnick it made sense because I felt like I already had a connection. It’s got to make sense. I was doing a cultural awareness lunch and partnered with Mercado Marimar on Park Street. It’s a grocery store where they have homemade tortillas. They make authentic food right there. I know Maria, the owner. I told her I wanted to support her business because we were doing a Cinco de Mayo lunch at Overture Center. I do cultural awareness lunches once a month. We discuss a particular culture, provide some written information, and have authentic food from the culture. It’s a way to build collegiality around cultural awareness. That was a natural opportunity for me to connect with and support that business. We spent money with one of the neighborhood businesses. It wasn’t a chain. It was a local business and I made sure that everybody knew where the food came from. If they enjoyed it, they could go and support that business.

I guess it doesn’t make a difference what the business is, but it has to be something that’s not manufactured. It has to be something that is a natural connection. I’ll give another quick example. We co-sponsored a pre-show reception with Wynton Marsalis at the jazz club, Café CODA, while he was in town to perform at the Overture Center. It’s a natural connection and we both benefitted from that.

DB: In an ideal world, what would you like to see happen with the minority business community and the Overture Center?

EH: Be aware that we’re here and we’re doing outreach. We’ve got to create entry points that make sense for collaboration. I think the piece that people don’t recognize is that we are a private nonprofit. So, we’re always trying to find ways to connect with the community around the mission of the organization, but we also have a commercial side where we try to find ways to generate funds in order to be fiscally responsible. So, there’s always a balance between making sure that the mission of the organization is fulfilled while we are fulfilling our commercial interest, as well.

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