What happens when a nonprofit board of directors imperils a revered cultural institution whose future it has been entrusted to promote and advance? What happens when an easy solution is nearly dismissed in an undemocratic power grab by management?

For the past four months, the contract dispute between the Fort Wayne Philharmonic board and musicians has been a case study in arrogance and self-destruction on the part of the board. The pay package issues were long settled. But the board continued its belligerent strategy to crush and silence the musicians over long-held workers’ rights.

Thank goodness a resolution has been reached. While our primary concern in this entire debacle was always the fair treatment of and partnership opportunities for the musicians, an equally pressing concern has also been the impact on our community’s efforts to reposition itself and reach a new level of public recognition and appeal.

To put it directly, the Philharmonic situation was bad for Fort Wayne’s reputation. It was damaging — and unnecessary.

The board’s behavior served to gut all the economic development messages. It tarnished the hard-earned public perception-building underway. It undercut the brick-and-mortar investments, the quality-of-place transformations.

It told the world that talent is — that people are — disposable, expendable. We were left with a reality that made a mockery of our stated strategic goals. And throughout the intractable situation, it proclaimed we were all show, not a welcoming place for the brightest and the best to thrive.

Juxtapose this with the recent “PBS NewsHour” piece on the city’s public art with the appalling story of the Philharmonic board’s willful attempts to destroy the musicians’ spirits and livelihood.

This was never a simple contract dispute; it was always about fairness, respect and worker dignity. But on a higher level, it was and is about what kind of community we want to be. Are we willing to invest in our people? To demonstrate that talent and expertise are worth what we claim they are? To live up to our economic development rhetoric?

The question remains. How can we become a “Top-10 Music City” and a talent magnet if we were willing to destroy our professional orchestra, our oldest musical asset, out of spite? It takes so little to extinguish the work of decades, to put momentum on the skids.

Evidently some community leaders employing macho brinkmanship were quite willing to impose last-century thinking on this matter, thereby clouding our community’s bright future and sullying its newly burnished image.

The contract dispute resolution is a victory for our talented musicians and our greater community. But the harm to our reputation has been done. The signal this prolonged conflict sent to the world is that Fort Wayne has a long way to go in realizing its highest aspirations. To that end, we must rededicate ourselves to working even harder to achieve those goals.

One disturbing undercurrent in all of this, however, is the implication that this board does not truly believe in the potential of the orchestra or the creative talent of our community. That’s reputational suicide. If that is the case, then perhaps those members should step out of the way.

For the moment, though, we celebrate the return of equilibrium within our arts community and the restoration of orchestral music. Let the glorious sounds ring forth.

Angela Boerger is a Fort Wayne resident.