Thanks to donors, the Paramount Center for the Arts continues to thrive

Paramount Center for the Arts during these pandemic days. April 5th, 2021. Photo credit: Arsalan Khan

Written by: Arsalan Khan

The Paramount Center for the Arts is still surviving and thriving despite the Coronavirus restrictions by operating virtually.

The Paramount Center for the Arts, located in downtown St. Cloud, has been closed to the public since March 14, 2020, when the venue closed due to COVID-19.

The art center normally serves over 100,000 people each year through its performing arts presentations, visual arts classes and exhibitions, and community outreach, said Gretchen T. Boulka. the director of Performing Arts.

“Since closing to the public last March, the Paramount has shifted to offering a variety of arts activities online,” said Boulka. “Over the summer, the Paramount hosted three “Summer Sessions Live” concerts, featuring local musicians through livestreaming from the Paramount stage.”

Giving local musicians a chance to perform through livestreaming from the Paramount stage is a great opportunity for them. Many believe that local musicians, artists and creative people are the life, heart and soul of the community.

In these times, the more society focuses on supporting local, small businesses, the stronger the bond. This will ensure that our streets and neighborhoods continue to have prosperous and happy lives.

“In the fall, they shifted their annual fundraiser, Autumn Moon, to an online event and saw similar results to past years, thanks to the generous contributions from sponsors and individual donors,” said Boulka.

“Throughout the winter, the Paramount continued to offer occasional virtual concerts in addition to a menu of new on-demand virtual art classes,” said Boulka when asked about the current state of operations. “This spring, they created a new Virtual Field Trips program for students throughout the state, featuring nationally renowned artists presenting educational arts experiences, all online.”

The Paramount has a positive, quick, assertive, realistic and practical approach to the pandemic.

“Currently, the Paramount has plans to reopen slowly and safely to audiences of 200 starting in May,” said Boulka. “Paramount leaders continue to monitor COVID-19 case rates and guidance from the CDC and MN Department of Health and make adjustments to their operations as needed.”

The Paramount’s 100th Anniversary is coming up; this experience will serve as a great opportunity for the organization to improvise and experiment with something new.

“The organization is hopeful for a full reopening this fall, as it celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Paramount Theatre,” said Boulka.

St. Cloud State University also has a strong connection with the Paramount Center for the Arts, some of the Paramount members are faculty at SCSU. Janet Tilstra is a Board member at Paramount Center for the Arts and an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders.

“I think it has been challenging but surprising transition,” said Tilstra. “The paramount staff has handled the situation really well. They organized virtual field trips and educational classes. Thanks to some generous people’s funding, it is delightful and creative the way things are going. I have just been impressed by the staff’s resilience and creativity.”

King Banaian is the Paramount’s Board Chair and the Dean in School of Public Affairs.

“We were fortunate to have made some investments in our ability to deliver online programming, but we had very little experience when the pandemic began,” said Baniaian. “We are pleased that the community has embraced these performances, and we are now adding some educational programming to the stage and music performances.”

The Paramount has been able to continue operations due to donations.

“What has been most gratifying for the board has been the philanthropic support of the community,” said Banaian. “We held our largest fundraiser last September, entirely online for the first time. We had tempered our expectations thinking it would be harder to attract donations virtually. Happily I was wrong about this: The level of giving was greater than I had expected.”

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