Building community partnerships to expand arts access
Madison resident Dr. Consuelo Lopez is retired in title but not responsibility. Lopez volunteers on committees and boards of several community organizations, including Overture Center’s Community Advisory Council.
Representing a variety of constituencies, the Community Advisory Council makes recommendations to Overture Center staff regarding community and educational programming. The Council recommends opportunities to deepen and enrich community engagement, helps develop relationships with community constituents and organizations, and evaluates programming.
With a reputation for getting the community engaged in the arts and artists engaged in the community, Lopez was invited to join the Council six years ago and now leads the group as the 2021 chair.
A proven community activist, Lopez says, “Whenever I can give a hand, I will.”
An organizer at heart, Lopez has coordinated programs since early in her career as a faculty member in Puerto Rico. At InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico, she gathered a handful of scholars together to organize community events and established a symposium that brought together for the first time women writers of Caribbean nations as well as a symposium on Puerto Rican drama.
In Madison, she served as Assistant Dean, Student Academic Affairs for the College of Letters and Science and senior lecturer in the Gender & Women’s Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 20 years. Now Assistant Dean Emerita, Lopez stays active academically as a faculty affiliate, working with students on independent Chicano and Latino studies.
She serves as a member the City of Madison’s Community Services Committee, board member with Attic Angel, public policy representative with the American Association of University Women, member of the Preliminary Review Committee for the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s Office of Lawyer Regulation, board member of Tempo Madison and past chair and founder of the Community Alliances project of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters.
Lopez has embraced work in diversity and inclusion in her academic career and volunteer realm. Her plans for the Community Advisory Council further exemplify this commitment.
The Council continues to grow and establish itself as an important contributor to the Equity and Innovation initiative at Overture. In the past few years, the group has completed Overture’s Land Recognition Statement and Equity and Innovation Statement, reviewed International Festival and the Community Ticket Program and helped recruit volunteers for the usher team.
Lopez is appreciative of the outstanding efforts of the past chair, Dawn Crim, whose wisdom and guidance advanced the Council’s mission, built bridges with the community and enhanced collegiality, and to Eugenia Podesta, vice chair, for serving as a sterling example of community leadership. Lopez plans to continue the forward momentum and is working closely with co-chair Sarah Karlen to expand the Council’s reach in the community.
“I’d like to talk to grassroots agencies, schools, universities and local organizations to get the feedback we need for higher access,” she said. “Our goal is to reflect the community at large and bring diverse constituencies in to experience the arts at Overture Center.”
Lopez understands her role as chair is to improve communications and strengthen ties with members, Overture staff and significant members of the community and to build mutual trust and respect. She looks forward to linking up with community organizations and using her UW ties to connect with historically underrepresented populations.
After retiring from UW-Madison, Lopez began volunteering as an usher at Overture. Her experience has resulted in a dedication to attract more diverse audiences to Overture and increase support for education and engagement programming.
“Serving as an usher has really helped me better understand the organization, how it functions and who comes to the shows,” she said. “This helps guide my work on the Council.”
Lopez describes Overture as the epicenter of music, dance, theater and cultural life in Madison. But, she explains, few from the working class and underrepresented groups attend shows. She says Overture must reflect our diverse community in the programs it offers—as showcased at International Festival, which attracts thousands of people from all backgrounds and economic classes.
As chair of the Community Advisory Council, Lopez has found an impactful way to combine her volunteerism and community activism as she reaches out to the community, building relationships and offering more people access to the arts.
“I’m excited to spread the word on all Overture has to offer,” she said.