DeDee Takes on Overture

After four years at McCoy Center, DeDee heads to Madison, Wis., to take on the turnaround

  • by Linda Deckard
  • Published: March 7, 2012


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When Ted Dedee officially starts his new job April 2 as president and CEO of the Overture Center for the Arts, Madison, Wis., the priority is clear – raise funds.

The Overture Center was a victim of the market crash in 2008, which wiped out 60 percent of the value of the performing arts center’s endowment, DeDee explained. A year ago, the process began to transition the venue from city management to private nonprofit status through its new operator, the 23-member board of the Overture Center Foundation.

In the process of moving the venue to private management, the city was able to restructure the debt to relieve the Foundation of the existing debt service. The $210-million Overture Center opened in 2004 with a $98 million endowment, much of it from Pleasant Rowland and Jerry Frautschi of American Girl Dolls fame, to pay debt service and operating costs. The 1928-era Capitol Theatre was refurbished and reopened in 2006 as an Overture Center property.

After the economy crashed in 2008, the value of the endowment plummeted and the bank called the note. The financial plan was in ruins and the city was faced with the prospect of operating and funding the Overture Center. A year later, both the city and state were struggling with other financial worries. Given that scenario, the city restructured the debt and began the process of setting up the Foundation to fundraise, something a government entity can’t do, and operate the venue.

In Spring 2011, the Overture Center Foundation began a national search for a president and CEO, choosing DeDee, who had been with the McCoy Center for the Performing Arts, New Albany, Ohio, since it opened four years ago. DeDee is no stranger to the task. McCoy Center was the fourth building DeDee has opened since his start in the business at Rockefeller Arts Center, Fredonia, N.Y. He has worked at the Eastman Theater, Rochester, N.Y.; Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas; Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville; Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville; and McCoy.

The Capitol Theatre in Madison reminds him of the Eastman Theater, which is a refurbished 1921 movie house.

DeDee said the board of directors at the Overture Center Foundation is committed and capable of accomplishing its task. He has made several trips to Madison already to participate in press conferences marking major gift giving. To date, $1.6 million has been raised toward covering operational shortfalls, which totaled $2.4 million last year. The venue’s operating revenues are $15-$16 million. Another $350,000 has been pledged as matching funds, he said.

DeDee’s last day at the McCoy Center is March 30. That venue is in the process of an executive search. He has a fulltime staff of four there, who will run the building in the interim.

The industry views the Overture Center saga as a wake-up call to make sure there is a solid business model in place, particularly with the new venues opening since the Madison arts center debuted, DeDee said. Endowments are very, very conservatively invested in this new environment and risk assessment is more thorough than ever.

DeDee was talking to Paul Beard, who is opening the Smith Center, Las Vegas, this weekend, about the Overture Center job since Beard is from Madison. “His first words were, ‘It’s complicated,’” DeDee recalled. He expects the lessons learned in Madison will be with the industry for quite awhile. He is fortunate, he said, that the city of Madison values and understands the arts in that community and the value of the Overture Center in reviving downtown Madison.

Interviewed for this story: Ted DeDee, (614) 245-4701


 

  • by Linda Deckard
  • Published: March 7, 2012
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