Arts Alliance Buys the Fox Theater
Rachel Pukall

The Fox Theater, located downtown on Main Street, was recently donated to the Arts Alliance of Portage County.

The Theatre property, which was owned by the Sanders family, was transferred to the Arts Alliance in hopes that something could be done with the building. There was no financial transaction. The family thought that the property might be better handled by a non-profit group.

Elizabeth Aguillera, the Executive of Administration and Development, says that the Arts Alliance was happy to work with the Sanders family.

“A separate group and new LLC was created to manage the Fox project. The Arts Alliance facilitated the transfer to this group,” Aguillera said.

The purpose of the group, called the Fox Theatre LLC, is developing concepts and ideas for the use of the space and finding the resources necessary to bring the building back to reasonable shape.

Gerald McKenna, the former dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communication and the head of the board of the Fox Theatre, says that the new board will manage the space and develop programming based on community needs.

“We are trying to determine what the space can be used for, and that is a large task because you have to have financial support to continue every year, but first, you need to find the resources to repair and bring the building back into shape,” McKenna said.

The theatre has been in the Sanders family since its start in the late 1890s, first as an opera house and then as a movie theatre. It was used as a movie theatre until 1985, when the stage was taken off the back to make way for the Stevens Point mall.

“At this stage, we are doing a full review of the condition of the property before we can admit the public. We are also considering what the space could be used for,” McKenna said.

Leslie DeBauche, a professor in the division of Communication, hopes for the Fox Theatre to become a self-sustaining arts space for our area.

“I teach film, and I love silent movies made before 1927. My dream is that the Fox would occasionally be able to show vintage films with live music. It would be wonderful to show the great old films in this wonderful and acoustically rich space,” DeBauche said.

The Arts Alliance would also like to see the building used as a public space where art and cultural events take place.

“We thank the family for donating the property, and we will do all we can to make the space useful and usable in the years ahead. We have a lot of work to do in examining the property and in seeing that it can be used in the best possible way,” McKenna said.