New Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center raises curtain
Gonzaga theater debuts with performance tonightApril 25th, 2019
Gonzaga University will introduce The Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center to Spokane tonight, Thursday, April 25.
After nearly two years of construction, “A New Season: A Celebration of Artistry, Place, and Potential” will begin at 7:30 p.m. to celebrate the opening of the new performing arts facility with a performance that will include more than 100 Gonzaga students performing dance, theatre, and music, says assistant professor of theatre and dance Suzanne Ostersmith.
The performing arts center is named for Myrtle Woldson, the late, Spokane-born philanthropist who never attended Gonzaga but who was fond of the university, says Laura Sims, the center’s director.
“It’s a gift to both Gonzaga and the Spokane community that will inspire and enrich our community for years,” Sims says.
The $55 million bequest Woldson left for the creation of a performing arts center and scholarship endowment fund was the largest financial gift to an educational institution in state history, Sims claims.
The $30 million, 52,000-square-foot building at 211 E. Desmet, on the western edge of Gonzaga’s campus, was designed by Pfeiffer Partners, of Los Angeles, and built by Spokane Valley-based Lydig Construction Inc.
It includes a 5,400-square-foot, two-level, 759-seat theater and concert hall; an interdisciplinary design studio and classroom; four dressing rooms; a wardrobe room; a furnished green room; and a 2,800-square-foot recital hall, named for Woldson’s parents, Martin and Edwidge Woldson. Large windows provide views of the spires of St. Aloysius Church, the copper-clad steeple of the Jundt Art Museum, Lake Arthur, and the South Hill.
The center will help attract businesses to the Spokane area, Sims says, because many companies want to settle in a place that provides a high quality of life for their employees, including access to the arts.
“It’s a gem for the region,” she says.
Much of the building was designed to mirror the natural beauty of the Spokane area, Sims says. The carpeting has a wavelike pattern to imitate the waves of the Spokane River, and branch-like acoustical structures in the Father Bernard J. Coughlin Theater create the impression of trees surrounding the stage and seating areas.
On the second floor of the building, facing the South Hill where Myrtle Woldson lived, the Myrtle Woldson Collection commemorates Woldson through replications of her lavishly decorated living room, dining room, and sitting room.
An interpretive center allows visitors to learn about the successful real estate investor, who died in 2014 at the age of 104, as well as view some of her clothes, jewelry, and other belongings. The collection will be open to the public 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, in addition to performance days and times.
With the $55 million bequest, Woldson specified that $25 million be used to create a scholarship endowment. Sims says 14 students who demonstrate academic achievement, community involvement, and leadership received Woldson Scholarships of as much as $15,000 at the beginning of the academic year.
In addition to this evening’s performance, “A New Season” will take to the main stage at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28.