Kilbourne Group: If These Walls


As a very public-facing entity in the midst of constant scrutinization and often misinformation, the team at Kilbourne Group came to us with a challenge. The public had a misinformed and negative view of who they are and their work.

The solution? We came together to show the heart behind Kilbourne, by telling the stories of significant philanthropic endeavors that are the foundation of who they are. Starting with individual decisions from Doug to the birth of Kilbourne and its early building blocks of restoration, renaissance and reuse, we paint the picture of how many buildings we know and love came to be — and through it, gently remind the public that we’re the good guys.

A big part of this was showing the people of Fargo-Moorhead; their faces and their stories, and why they are so thankful for Kilbourne Group. By showing the gratitude and personal impact Kilbourne has had in so many lives of those in our community, we wanted to emphasize that Kilbourne cares about the individuals of Fargo-Moorhead and wants the neighborhood — small business owners, artists, shop-keepers, museum directors, theater groups, grocery stores, students and families —  to succeed as whole.

Execution: We did this by creating a series of mini-films, as well as accompanying feature stories that were each published in Fargo INC! Magazine in issues starting in June 2017 and ending in April 2018.

Note: Part of our hope with each film, as expressed by Kilbourne Group, was to create a piece that the organizations featured would be proud to share. We wanted it to be a beautiful resource that they could use for their own growth, as well as a nod to Kilbourne Group’s role in their story.

Renaissance Hall

To kick off the series, we start at the beginning. Renaissance Hall is arguably the impetus of Fargo’s transformation — renaissance, if you will. We interviewed the experts from that story and paired it with lush B-roll footage of the building, highlighting the architectural benefits that were just days from being demolished by a wrecking ball.

One of our goals with this film was to emphasize the risk taken on a building that would not be here today, if not for the investment and passionate commitment of Doug and his team. We wanted to show the gravity of the decision to move NDSU downtown and the transformative and positive ripple effect that followed.

Family Healthcare

The story of Family Healthcare’s building is a fascinating one, walking through the journey of an automobile showroom to a print house, to a boarded up and vacant warehouse. In this film, we wanted to show how this building was down for the count, dark and undesirable when Kilbourne stepped in to help out.

Not only was this a story of restoring a building, but also of energizing an organization that does incredibly good work in our community. Family Healthcare’s mission to provide affordable healthcare for everyone achieved new lengths when they moved into this space downtown, where they are easily accessible and can serve their clients in a beautiful place that is dignified and clean.

We illustrated this throughout the film with eight powerful interviews with both Family HealthCare employees and Kilbourne Group staff, along with sweeping shots of the gorgeous exterior and interior of the building.

Plains Art Museum: Center for Creativity

The arts are a crucial part of a thriving downtown, and Kilbourne Group has established themselves as a strong arts advocate. An important story is that of the Center for Creativity, which would not exist without the contributions of the Burgum family through the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum fund.

In this film, we wanted to emphasize the importance of art in the community, establishing Kilbourne Group as a strong Arts Ally — not just in word but in deed. We introduce Katherine Kilbourne Burgum through interviews with those who knew her (Michael Olsen) and show her picture, establishing her lifelong love for the arts as a foundation of many of the investments from the Burgum family (including Gasper’s School of Dance and The Stage at Island Park.)

Through engaging interviews with the key players of this game-changing creative center, we tell the story of how the Burgums’ investment came at a time where the project could either succeed or fail and why this place is so important to creating a vibrant downtown.

The Fargo Theatre

While one of the most iconic emblems of downtown Fargo, many people do not know the story of Fargo Theatre or its second screen. We wanted to show why this was important for the theater’s growth and success, weaving in the importance of strategic philanthropy that is part of Doug’s philosophy.

We also sought to show off the theater and “the magic of the movies” through B-Roll of the exterior and interior and quotes from key players in the theatre’s lifespan; creating an ode to historic landmark in Fargo while weaving in how Kilbourne’s contributions assisted in keeping it afloat.

APT: A Creative Incubator

Another important and more recent arts endeavor from Kilbourne Group is APT: the arts incubator created with The Arts Partnership. Here we included a candid interview with Dayna Del Val, who had her initial frustrations with Kilbourne Group turned into gratitude when the two organizations were able to meet and work together.

The result was APT, an arts incubator that we show off through interviews and multiple shots showing local artists at work in their studios. We talked with a local artist who has benefited from the space, as well as Kilbourne Group representatives about why supporting the arts is important to Kilbourne’s mission.

Gasper’s School of Dance

The story of Gasper’s School of Dance takes us back to an earlier time in Fargo, when the local arts scene was not as bright.

In this film we created a narrative to intro the story, starring a young dancer who has been a long-time students at Gaspers School of Dance. We weave her story in with Matt Gasper, talking about his parents, a power couple who started teaching professional dance in the area, and their struggle to afford a studio downtown. We talk to Kilbourne Group, who tell the story of their friendship with Doug and his help in securing them a studio in downtown Fargo. Once again we show the strategic nature of his philanthropy; not just a dollar investment, but a gift that aids in long-term success.

We thought it important to include that not only has the location of the dance studio brought the arts into a central location and brought the studio success, it has also aided in the surrounding economy of local shops and eateries, where many of the parents and students spend their time before or after classes.

Our personal favorite part of this film is a delightful montage at the end that shows the various styles and faces of Gasper’s dance paired with a soft piano melody.

The Stage at Island Park

To cap off the series, we told the story of Fargo Moorhead Community Theater and the Katherine Kilbourne Burgum investment in their pavilion. Similar to the Fargo Theatre, this is a project that was not extremely flashy, but was an important strategic donation that assisted in the long-term growth of the Stage. Here we spoke with the director and others who care for the theatre, and all three spoke of how the pavilion has caught the eye of people driving or walking by, and brought in more ticket sales and more interest in the theatre.

This story emphasizes one of the most important features of this entire series: that Doug Burgum, and now Kilbourne Group, does not just give “a coat of paint,” as an interviewee put it. Instead, they sit down with these business owners, directors, art leaders and more, and see how they can make a thoughtful investment that will have lasting impact and be truly helpful.

We had fun interviewing enthusiastic interviewees and using sweeping drone shots of the theater and the pavilion, as well as old photos from when the theatre first began, to tell the story of Fargo’s community theatre.


Public perception can be hard to track. What we can show is that the films received hundreds, sometimes thousands of views, and garnered many shares and positive comments. Each article that ran in Fargo INC! had a distribution of 100K, not including the online viewers.

From saving Renaissance Hall to building a new, eye-catching pavilion for the Stage at Island Park, these stories form the foundation of Kilbourne Group and reveal it to be one of gratitude and generosity — the gifts from whom continue to have a positive ripple effect in the community.