Gonzaga Prepares to Begin Construction on Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center

August 24, 2016
SPOKANE, Wash. – Gonzaga University intends to break ground in spring 2017 on the Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center, a transformative $30 million facility made possible by an extraordinary $55 million gift from the late Miss Myrtle Woldson – the largest gift in University history. Construction awaits final approval from Gonzaga’s Board of Trustees anticipated later this year.

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh said the estimated 57,550-square-foot, two-story building, expected to be completed by winter 2018, sets in motion a new era for Gonzaga’s leadership in the creative arts and the humanities while providing a magnificent venue for the entire community. The building and the Jundt Art Center and Museum will form the keystones of an arts village on the west side of campus, anchoring programs in music, theater, dance and the visual arts. The new building will face south toward the Jundt Art Center and Museum and the Spokane River. It will be located immediately south of the former Knights of Columbus building (east 200 block of Desmet Avenue and north 1100 block of Van Gorp Street).

“This facility, envisioned and made possible by the unprecedented generosity of Miss Woldson, advances Gonzaga’s legacy of excellence in the performing and visual arts in the Inland Northwest, and honors the rich heritage of the arts in the Jesuit tradition. Moreover, this project lays the foundation for a new era of teaching and learning in the creative disciplines and the humanities at Gonzaga through the College of Arts and Sciences,” President McCulloh said.

In addition, significant new initiatives in the humanities at Gonzaga will be introduced this fall, including the Center for Public Humanities.

“The Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts Center will build upon the solid foundation for the arts and humanities at Gonzaga created by the Jundt Art Center and Museum and the Harry and Colleen Magnuson Theatre, as well as the dedicated work of our exceptional faculty and staff in these disciplines. I will always cherish the opportunity I had to work with Miss Woldson and am committed to assuring her legacy shines brightly as a beacon – illuminating our students and the community in ways that would make her proud,” President McCulloh said.

The estimated 52,000-square-foot building will include a 750-seat performance theatre named for Father Bernard J. Coughlin, S.J., chancellor of Gonzaga (including approximately 400 seats on the main level), and a 150-seat recital/rehearsal hall for music and dance, a two-story lobby with box office, and dedicated space for instruction and projects involving a variety of arts disciplines – fostering experimentation and collaboration. The building will include dressing and makeup rooms and a “green room” for performers to relax when off stage. The stage will feature a proscenium arch and a fly loft. The orchestra pit will be designed to rise to create a “thrust” stage area or descend for an orchestra during a musical or dance production. The second floor will include a multipurpose design and interdisciplinary arts studio.

The new facility will be primarily for music, theatre and dance. The Magnuson Theatre, located at the east end of College Hall, will continue to serve as a primary venue for stage productions. Many of the existing music and theatre/dance teaching facilities will remain and become a part of the arts village on the west campus. The former Knights of Columbus building is being renovated to house music faculty offices and studios along with new practice and rehearsal spaces.

Pfeiffer Partners of Los Angeles is the lead architect for the facility with Bernardo-Wills Architects of Spokane. The theatre and music consultant is Auerbach Pollock Friedlander of San Francisco. The building targets “Gold” certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system.

About Miss Woldson

Miss Woldson, a Spokane resident with ties to Gonzaga for more than five decades, passed away on April 11, 2014 at age 104. The daughter of a self-made industrialist, a railroad contractor who helped build the Great Northern Railway, Miss Woldson quietly carried on her family’s tradition of investing, industry and philanthropy and became a successful businesswoman. Her love for the Spokane community is evident in developments that honor her parents, including The Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox and the Edwidge Woldson Park on Spokane’s South Hill. Far more frequently, her philanthropy was discreet. Her support reflects her commitment to hold the community she loved “in trust.”

Gonzaga Will Campaign

Last fall, in launching Gonzaga’s $250 million fundraising campaign “Gonzaga Will: The Campaign for Our Future,” President McCulloh announced that Miss Woldson would celebrate her love of the arts, music and student success with the gift establishing a transformational scholarship fund to help ensure access to a Gonzaga education for talented, high-financial-need students ($25 million) and to build the performing arts center ($30 million).

Miss Woldson’s gift is the second-largest from an individual to a college or university in Washington state history, according to data from the Chronicle of Philanthropy (http://bit.ly/1jooGjX).

In July, the Trustees approved the investment of more than $36.3 million to construct a new Jesuit Residence and Center for Athletic Achievement to support student-athletes. At that meeting, President McCulloh informed Trustees that the campaign has surpassed $212 million and expressed deep appreciation for the support from more than 30,000 contributors.

“This is Gonzaga Will in action. On behalf of everyone at Gonzaga, I would like to express profound gratitude to all those who are committed to making our institution a place of creativity, innovation and inspiration,” he said.