Visiting the Fox Theater in downtown Oakland with a group of 50 junior high and high school youth from Northern Japan was quite a treat. These students are in the United States for three weeks participating in a University of California summer program for youth.
The Fox Theater was significant in that for the past 43 years the building was derelict and rundown. With a $100 million investment from twelve sources of money the theater, owned by the City of Oakland, is now a public-private endeavor. In addition to a restored live music venue, the primary use of the building is the Oakland School for the Arts, teaching theater, music, and visual arts. There are 600 students who are selected to attend. It is a public charter school serving 8-12th grades.
The opulent Fox Theater was built in 1928 and only in the last four years has it housed the School for the Arts. It holds 2800 in the audience and is one of the largest stages in the area. As a result of its rehabilitation, over 23 restaurants and bars have opened in the revitalized Uptown District, dramatically changing the ambiance of downtown Oakland.