When Barb Burns looks at the Fox Theatre in downtown Newton, she doesn't just see the floors that need fixing, the bathrooms that need repairing, or the walls that need painting. She sees potential and possibility, and hints of the magic the Fox Theatre had during its heyday in the 1950s.
She wants to bring some of that magic back, and the Fox board of directors soon will be launching a fund-raising effort called "Floors, Fires and Flushers," designed to raise $65,000 for interim repairs before the Fox starts its capital campaign for major renovations.
"We need to get things fixed up," said Burns, who is the city of Newton's community advancement coordinator and a member of the Fox board of directors. "... We know what we need. We just need a little time and a lot of community support. ... We want it nice, we want it safe, we want it successful."
Although Burns said the theater's four "under construction" concerts last year were a success, the theater now needs some repairs before it will be safe to operate again. Toilets are broken, the building is not fire code compliant, splotches of water damage dot the walls, and improved ADA accessibility is needed. Also, during December's "Cherish the Ladies" concert, one of the Irish dancers accidently broke through the floor on the stage.
"We can't program if our building is not safe," Burns said.
The theater will be closed until mid-April, and work already has begun to fix certain areas. Burns said plumbers and electricians have been brought in to assess the needs of the building, and Chief Mark Willis and Fire Marshal Randall McBee with the Newton Fire/EMS department also have advised the Fox board how to make the building safer. Law Kingdon architectural firm in Wichita has been doing "pro bono" work for the theater, as well.
In the long term, the Fox board would like to take the theater back to the 1950s era, leaving the iconic marquee and creating an open lobby area for people to socialize. Burns envisions the theater becoming a place for community theater productions, weddings, showing films, and more.
"We just think that the Fox is all about fun and vitality," she said.
Burns said she understands that right now, times are tough economically, and that people's finances may be a little tight. However, she encourages community members to do what they can to support the theater. She said if a historical building is torn down, you can't get it back, and she hopes the Fox will become a place where the community can come together to celebrate the arts.
"We understand that in Newton, there are so many needs and so many good causes competing for everyone's precious dollars," Burns said. "... What we do is bring a special pulse to Newton. We give couples and families a fun getaway."