Minnesota's Ordway Center and Its Residents Come to Long-Awaited Truce

Classic Arts News   Minnesota's Ordway Center and Its Residents Come to Long-Awaited Truce
The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul and its three major tenants — the Minnesota Opera, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Schubert Club of Minnesota — have concluded a "master agreement" that should settle what Ordway president Patricia Mitchell described as the "areas of conflict that have plagued us for the last 2½ decades."

The new contract, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press, has instituted both a new rent structure for the tenants and a calendar establishing set periods for each organization's use of the Ordway's 1,900-seat main auditorium.

When an arts center like the Ordway acts as both landlord/host to resident performing organizations and a presenter in its own right, conflicts can arise over sharing of expenses and scheduling use of theaters. (This is particularly true when the landlord presents lucrative Broadway tours.) Similar complexes, such as Lincoln Center in New York and the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, have managed such conflicts more or less successfully over the years. But relations among the Ordway and its residents have been notoriously contentious ever since the center opened in 1985; at various points, according to the Pioneer Press, both Minnesota Opera and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra seriously considered, despite the expense, abandoning the center and building their own venues. (On one occasion in early 2005, for instance, the Chamber Orchestra had to reschedule several concerts so that the Ordway could present a touring production of the long-running Broadway musical Les Miserables.)

The new master agreement is designed to resolve such conflicts. In addition to the rent structure and calendar, the pact establishes a separate non-profit entity, called the Arts Partnership, that will adjudicate disputes among the Ordway and its tenants and will raise funds for building improvements that will help the Ordway (as presenter) and its resident groups equally. Minnesota Opera president Kevin Smith will be the first chairman of the Arts Partnership, with the position rotating annually among the four constituents.

With classical artists and opera stars often booked years in advance, the new agreement should make programming and scheduling vastly easier for the Ordway's tenants. "I can't tell you how good it feels," SPCO president Bruce Coppock told the Pioneer Press, "to know that we have three weeks in October 2013 that can work for us."

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