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Published August 02 2012

Forum editorial: Bluestem need not sing blues

The financial meltdown at the Bluestem Center for the Arts, and by association the Trollwood Performing Arts School, appears to be over. That is, the uncertainty of the past year regarding the center’s finances ended this week when the Fargo School Board took over the center’s $5 million debt. The Bluestem Group, which was a management and fundraising umbrella organization, will dissolve, leaving Fargo schools in control of contracts and lease rights for the $15 million south Moorhead arts venue.

In light of the dysfunction of the last year, the news is comparatively good. Fargo schools really had no choice, but they now can go about the vital business of restoring the center’s financial stability and developing programs and activities, in addition to the Trollwood production, that will generate revenues.

It’s not the time for the blame game, but learning from mistakes is essential. Among the situations that were destined to doom the Bluestem/Trollwood relationship were personality conflicts, turf protection and the toxic style of back-biting that is unique to the arts world. Combined with the fundraising failure of the Bluestem board (not all the board’s fault), the inability (refusal?) of Bluestem and Trollwood principals to work together guaranteed collapse.

With Bluestem having completed its housecleaning – something Trollwood might want to consider – the future can be promising. The south Moorhead center is nothing short of spectacular. The property and marvelous structures are quite valuable. The potential is limitless, which was the vision when the project was initially sold to the community. As the major tenant, Trollwood retains its cache as the best summer performance/education program in the Upper Midwest.

Fargo schools now have to retool the fundraising function of Bluestem and hire competent managers. And in order to deliver on the center’s promise to the community, Trollwood personnel must embrace a spirit of compromise and cooperation that was hard to find in the past couple of seasons.

Righting the center’s listing ship won’t be easy. Most things worth doing seldom are. But Fargo schools and Bluestem’s now-dissolved board made the right decisions to accommodate a new start.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.


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