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A major grant is big boost for the arts at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora

A watercolor rendering of the Paramount School for the Performing Arts in Aurora. | Courtesy Paramount Aurora

Call it the triumph of the performing arts over the dicey rewards of a casino stage.

If ever proof were needed that the arts are a major economic engine, the wildly successful Broadway Series of the Paramount Theatre in Aurora (which was launched in 2011, and currently attracts 320,000 patrons annually to its shows), would be “Exhibit A.”

The theater’s planned Paramount School of Performing Arts offers further evidence. So does Thursday’s announcement that the Paramount Theatre has been awarded its largest grant ever: a $2.5 million donation from the Dunham Fund that will serve as the lead grant toward the overall goal of $4.5 million set for Paramount’s Act 2 Capital Campaign.

According to Thursday’s announcement, the campaign is designed to support three major areas of expansion and improvement, including:

— The creation of the new Paramount School of Performing Arts in downtown Aurora in the new John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center. The school is currently under construction at the intersection of Galena Boulevard and Stolp Avenue and is scheduled to open in Jan. 2019.

Rendering of studio theater in Aurora’s Paramount School for the Performing Arts. | Courtesy Vara Design

— The replacement of all of the Paramount’s 1,988 original seats through a dollar-for-dollar matching grant.  It is estimated that the current seats have served more than 8 million visitors since the Paramount Theatre opened in 1931. Theater patrons already have donated funds for the replacement of more than 400 of the seats. Installation will begin this summer.

— The modernization of the Paramount’s 173-seat “sister stage,” the Copley Theatre, built in 1981.

The Aurora-based Dunham Fund was established by John C. Dunham in 1996 and honors its namesake’s life and philanthropic spirit.

Aurora Mayor Richard C. Irvin noted in the announcement: “The Paramount School of Performing Arts will provide new opportunities for Aurora’s youth [and] further nurture the arts in our community, adding excitement and vibrancy to our re-emerging downtown.”

Coming up next at the Paramount Theatre are productions of “Cabaret” (Feb. 7 – March 18) and “Once” (April 25 – June 3). For tickets visit www.paramountaurora.com.

Rendering of the first-floor lobby of Aurora’s Paramount School for the Performing Arts. | Courtesy Vara Design