Ferrone Olson LLC to focus on helping smaller arts organizations [DO NOT PUBLUSH]


Reggie Greenlaw and John Richardson, two Iowan musicians, will perform at Stephens Auditorium on Tuesday. 

Margaret Troup

With the recent circulating rumors of the possible indefinite closure of Stephens Auditorium, people of Ames are wondering if anyone can help the current state of the arts’ department.

It is situations like what Iowa art and entertainment businesses are in when companies like Ferrone Olson LLC step up to help.

Paul Ferrone and Holly Olson are two former Iowa State Center employees, and current managing partners at Ferrone Olson LLC. The Iowa State Center is made up of multiple university buildings, including Hilton Coliseum, Stephens Auditorium, Fisher Theater, Schemen Building and Jack Trice Stadium.

“My primary responsibility was Marketing Director for the Iowa State Center,” said Olson. “Most of my focus was on Stephens Auditorium, primarily. I oversaw marketing for all the buildings. I did most of the institutional marketing for Stephens Auditorium. Our main focus was getting people in the seats at Stephens Auditorium.” said Olson.

Ferrone has worked two stints at the Iowa State Center with a 16 year hiatus in between each of his employments.

“Originally, I worked there as director of performing arts programming.” said Ferrone. “Plus, I was doing all the fundraising for the performing arts series. This [most recent] time, my focus was strictly on the fundraising.”

Their newly created business, Ferrone Olson LLC, is a unique form of consulting that focuses exclusively on small to medium sized performing arts companies.

“The concept of Ferrone Olson is really to increase management capacity to small and mid sized organizations so that they can grow and fulfill their missions,” said Ferrone. We bring a level of experience and expertise to those organizations. We’re not looking to come into a specific area and work on one thing, but engage with the organization over the period of a year.”

Olson went on to explain the marketing side of Ferrone Olson LLC.

“Once we have identified the programming, I’ll take a look into our client’s programmatic marketing and just help them build on that,” said Olson. “A lot of times, we find that organizations just don’t have time to focus on their marketing adverts in a way that they need to just due to them[selves] being their only staff.”

In response to what Ferrone Olson LLC plans to do to help the university’s art’s program in particular, Ferrone spoke more about the sorts of companies that they work with.

“The university has made decisions as to what they thought was in their best interest,” said Ferrone. “That gave us an opportunity to go that different avenue. We’ve moved on to focusing on our company and specifically independent arts organizations. We don’t have a vested interest in a specific outcome, but we can help them [arts organizations] reflect and think through things.”

Olson elaborated on the organizations that their company has interest in.

“So really, we’re here for those small to mid sized arts organizations in both of our communities, as well state wide.” said Olson. “We are not limiting ourselves just to the community of Ames.”

While Stephens Auditorium is a larger arts company as compared to others, it seems to be more disadvantaged than the surrounding smaller arts organizations.

“There are organizations that we call ‘producing organizations’ and organizations that we call ‘presenting organizations,” said Ferrone. “Stephens is a presenting organization. They don’t create art. Whereas something like the ‘Octagon’ produces art. What we’re finding in times like this, is that a [presenting] facility is really handicapped because they cannot bring people together. Yet a producing organization can find creative ways to still create their art.”

Ferrone explained the various ways that theaters are still able to produce their art while avoiding large gatherings.

“I’ve been watching performances on Zoom from theater companies around the world,” said Ferrone. “If the theater is closed, the company is still producing art and serving its audiences. There needs to be a distinction made between those organizations. Stephens has a different challenge because they can’t use the facility. Stephens Auditorium cannot operate on 50 percent of audiences. It needs to have full houses. It’s better to do nothing than doing something or else they’re going to lose even more revenues. ” said Ferrone.

Ferrone and Olson finished talking about their company on a high note.

“What we’re doing is unique,” said Ferrone. “There aren’t other entities that do what we do. There are a lot of consultants out there, but this concept really was developed out of the need to provide support to an organization over a longer period of time, across the full spectrum, because helping temporarily doesn’t help an organization raise the floor.” said Ferrone.