Even with its plain white exterior, the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox can transport anyone who enters to a different world.
Met with a soft green interior, the delicate gold botanic designs gracefully climb the walls to meet with a large sun chandelier embedded in the ceiling. The carpet has a vibrant blue pattern that dances with every step.
The rich interior of The Fox is far from accidental — the building dates back to the 1930s and was restored in 2008.
Joshua Schultz, the box office manager for the Fox Theater and Spokane Symphony, detailed the history of the building.
“We're on the National Registry of historical preservation sites … The facade of the building is exactly the same as it was in 1931," Schultz said. "It was dilapidated and was going to be condemned in 2000 — that's when the symphony got it. When you go inside, all the painting is all restoration to how it was in 1931.”
Schultz said one major features of The Fox is its unique style that emerged from the art deco movement of the 1930s. A piece of the theater that marks itself as an example of the movement is the light fixture that resides above the stage.
“A central artistic piece but it's not a chandelier because it's built into the facade of the preceding March," Schultz said. "It is obviously a statement when you walk in — this thing is the lighting tiara of the princess that is the stage.”
The interior was not easy to restore, said Kathy Gustafson, director of marketing for the Spokane Symphony.
“It was just full of grease and cigarette smoke because people could smoke in here back then," Gustafson said. "They stripped all of that down and found a lot of artwork between the original photos and the artwork that they found behind. One of them is upstairs in the men's lounge area … there are these sports characters that they did not know were there. A lot of the light fixtures are original. Some people had some of these light fixtures in their homes, and they were donated back to the theater.”
Schultz also explained how the restoration process worked and some of the gems that were discovered.
The Spokane Symphony brought in an art team from New York to reconstruct walls and paintings of the original theater. During the restoration process, Schultz said they found multiple chandeliers that had been untouched since they went into hiding above false ceilings of the theater.
It wasn’t just the symphony that made the restoration possible. Gustafson and Schultz said that the project was a community effort.
“Spokane Symphony spearheaded a fundraising campaign — so the community bought it," Schultz said. "This was a $30 million restoration and it used to be a $1 movie theater.”
Generous efforts from the community are also what helped give The Fox its full name: Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.
“There are Fox theaters all around the country," Gustafson said. "So, the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox came from Myrtle Woldson, who also gave money for the GU theater. She was our No. 1 contributing donor when we went to restore this theater, and so she named it in honor of her dad, who is Martin Woldson.”
After restoration, and later COVID-19, The Fox and Symphony were tasked with bringing the theater’s liveliness to Spokane.
“A big difference of doing productions and concerts in our venue is really just trying to make sure that we're doing things that appeal to people, not just in Spokane proper, but in the suburbs, outlying areas," Schultz said. "We have to make sure that we're appealing to Coeur d’Alene, and we have people that come as far as Moscow for certain things and we get people from Montana all the time. It's just a different demographic that we're dealing with in terms of the community.”
Schultz said that same demographic is also typically comprised of an older audience, which creates a challenge of getting younger generations involved with The Fox community.
For college students, a college card is available for $40, which gives access to all nine of the Masterwork shows. Students in grades K-12 can participate in the Free Access Student Ticket program, which allows for entry into any Masterwork show for free alongside the purchase of one adult ticket.
In addition to ticket programs, Schultz said there are many opportunities for students to visit or even play at The Fox. Elementary students have opportunities to play mini quartet concerts and be part of a school day concert.
Gustafson said having The Fox feel like home is a priority, the little details and connections matter most.
“People [in Spokane] really put their heart and soul into their restaurants and their shops," Gustafson said. "Spokane is warm and fuzzy and that's what I love most about it here. After being here 15 years, I’ll go do something or experience something, and I'm like, 'I don't know about this,' and I feel like that's how the Fox Theater is. How come I've never been here before? Or on the flip side, like very intimate feeling or familiar feeling or feeling at home here. Some people have been coming here for 50 years so it's very familiar to them. I think that's how The Fox community here is.”