Remembering a very different Paramount Theatre

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, September 3, 2011

By Jennie Germain

Austin Area Commission for the Arts

When I listen to the music of Davina and the Vagabonds, who will be hitting the Paramount Theatre stage this Friday, Sept. 16, I am transported to a dark night club down in New Orleans.

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This image reminds me of the lesser-known nightclub era the Paramount Theatre went through in the late 70s.

In 1977, the Paramount was renovated and re-opened as The Theater, a nightclub featuring live entertainment. It was meant to be a place where people of all ages could come and listen to musicians from a wide range of genres.

The remodeling included leveling off the floors, tearing out the seats and building a large bar on the main floor and a smaller bar in the balcony. Although the nightclub was short lived, this time of reinventing the space makes me wonder about the future of the Paramount Theatre and of it’s potential for artists and patrons of the arts in southern Minnesota.

As our discussions about expansion have continued, our board and I have been thinking about how the Paramount Theatre could fit into Austin’s Vision 2020, and the role the arts in general could play to enhance Austin’s quality of life.

As I have been researching the Paramount’s history, I found a list of quotes from Austin community members supporting the recent restoration project.

It included a great quote from long time Paramount supporter Joann Stevens who wrote, “When the Paramount is restored it will be a Performing Arts Center which will enrich Austin’s cultural life in ways we have only begun to visualize.”

Her vision for the initial renovation still rings true for our future as well.

As we think about ideas to submit for Vision 2020, I encourage you to think about the role the arts could play in making Austin a better place to call home.