Reflecting on a career of working to make arts available to all
Eloise Breikjern officially retired earlier this month after seven years as executive director of Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre.
FARGO — In a heartfelt message earlier this month to the arts community where she devoted her career, Eloise Breikjern announced she was officially retired after more than thirty years of working in the arts sector.
Her post on Facebook was accompanied by a photo of keepsakes she's accumulated over the years, with name badges and programs from past performances spanning her illustrious career.
Before joining the Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre as executive director, Breikjern worked in performing arts leadership roles with the Fargo Theatre, Trollwood Performing Arts School, the Minnesota Orchestra and the Red River Boys Choir.
"My personal goal for all these years of working in arts management was to assist in making arts available to all," she says in the retrospective post.
If not everyone, then surely she made an effort to offer the arts to the majority through her work at FMCT and beyond.
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Breikjern's retirement comes after a long and storied career at FMCT where she oversaw an increase in the number of shows produced each year, a revitalization of theater troupe's educational programming and an expansion of its reach.
In an October article about the announcement of her retirement , The Forum reported the 2018-19 season had 24,800 guests who attended FMCT productions. Through the first half of the 2019-20 season, 15,235 people attended.
Breikjern attributes these successes over the past seven years to the hard work and collaboration of her staff.
“The entire staff really works together well,” Breikjern said. “Great art happens when people collaborate, and that's really what I've seen."
In the December post on Facebook marking her official retirement, Breikjern received an outpouring of support from fellow arts administrators, past actors and parents, co-workers and other supporters of FMCT.
"Making it bigger and better was always part of her goal, but overall, Eloise always reminded patrons, board members and staff that art matters because art saves lives," says Karin Rudd, FMCT Board member, parent and volunteer.
Reminding patrons, members of the board and staff that art matters, Rudd recalls how Breikjern made connections across the sector.
"She shared stories of people she had met through her years, finding connections with the arts that helped them develop, grow and feel a sense of safeness and belonging."
At the start of her career as an arts administrator, Breikjern was handed a pin with three simple words, “Art saves lives,” reflecting a sentiment from her final post as executive director of FMCT.
“The arts truly do take a family of like-minded individuals to provide art to the public, and yes, I do believe that art saves lives,” she says.
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In her final statement to the organization, the now-retired director wished the organization a future of change and growth as they encounter new challenges.
“My greatest wish for this organization is that it doesn't get stale, that it keeps growing and changing and really becomes a destination for people who come to our community,” Breikjern says.
Fargo Park Board gave the OK for FMCT to expand its Island Park location as part of the theater’s renovations, including adding new rehearsal and administrative spaces as well as an additional space for another, smaller theater.
The renovations were estimated to cost $12 million and the project has been extended into the spring.
As for Breikjern, her work over the years boils down to many singular moments, finite points of time that define actors, performers, and the families that come to enjoy these performances.
“Just knowing that a particular production or education class touched somebody's life and made it better, that's the reward,” says Breikjern.
As for the future executive director set to replace Breikjern at FMCT, that is still to be determined.
According to Board Member Rudd, "The FMCT’s Governance Committee organized a hiring committee in early November and are now in the final stages of selecting the candidates before the end of the year.”
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.