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Fergus Falls Center for the Arts hires Michael Burgraff as new executive director

FERGUS FALLS -- Michael Burgraff, currently the executive director of the Spearfish Arts Center in Spearfish, S.D., has been hired as the new executive director of A Center for the Arts in Fergus Falls. A Center for the Arts announced the hiring at the Talk of the Town event on Friday.

A native of Superior, Wis., Burgraff has spent most of his arts career in Minnesota. Before leaving for South Dakota a few years ago, he worked for a variety of arts centers, including the Duluth Playhouse, the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester and a stint as managing director of the Fairmont Opera House. Burgraff took the job at AC4TA because of the opportunities it presented, as well as the chance to move closer to his extended family (his mother still lives in Superior).

"I'm champing at the bit to get to Fergus and get settled," he said. He will start his new position Nov. 7.

Burgraff didn't know about the open position until a colleague called him and asked him to consider coming back to Minnesota.

"He said, 'If you don't apply, I have one of your old resumes, so I'm sending it in,'" Burgraff said with a laugh.

One reason Burgraff is excited is the support AC4TA has received from Fergus Falls residents over the years.

"I think it's a community that embraces the arts," he said. "It's easy for communities to forget, especially with the entertainment dollar dwindling, about live performance and live arts."

"He's experienced, he knows Minnesota, (and) he's worked in Minnesota in the past," AC4TA Board President Ben Schierer said of the decision to hire Burgraff. "He has a very good balance of financial management and artistic vision that will serve the center very well, and he has a calming personality that will fit in with the city."

Burgraff will replace long-time director Rebecca Petersen, who left the position earlier this year to become the executive director of the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra. Former board member Ann Newell worked as an interim director over the summer.

"Probably the biggest (benefit of Burgraff) is his experience in an organization similar to ours," said Newell, referring to the Fairmont Opera House. During his time there, Burgraff ran similar programs and also gained experience in grant writing in Minnesota, an ability Newell said is vital to AC4TA.

"We do a lot of our funding through grants," she said.

Since AC4TA has its current season pretty well set, Burgraff is looking to analyze current programming and talk more with the board of directors about any new directions it may want to take. However, said Schierer, he will be discussing the annual budget with the board soon after he arrives, and he will be impacting programming as well.

"I think there's plenty of room for him to come in and give some of his ideas," he said.

Some of Burgraff's ideas for further down the road include a subscription series and finding ways to more deeply utilize what the center is already doing.

"I don't want to come in and fix something that's not broken," he said.

As someone who has worked at multiple arts centers, Burgraff understands that patrons have other events in their lives - sports games for their kids, church events and other important appointments or outings. He wants to work with those needs and find a place for the arts at the table as well.

"It's my feeling that there's a big enough piece of the pie for everybody," he said.

Under Petersen's leadership, "we've been so fortunate for the last 19 years," said Schierer. "I think it's going to take a special kind of person with a special skill set to come in and be successful."

The board believes Burgraff can be that person