'One-stop-shop for the arts:' Aurora school set to open
New school next to Paramount Theatre to have grand-opening celebration Saturday
Shannon Cameron dreams of the day, coming soon, when the new Paramount School of the Arts in downtown Aurora is full of people of all ages, with the sounds of music, dance, theater and other arts classes spilling into the corridors.
Maybe a kid studying violin will be intrigued by the sound of tap shoes. A theater student may look in on a painting class. Newborns in the Kindermusik program may grow into teenagers studying music technology in the recording studio.
"We are like a one-stop shop for the arts," Cameron said Thursday, as she led a tour of the almost-finished school.
Painters were still working; pianos, mirrors and some furniture had yet to be installed.
But organizers are going ahead with a grand-opening celebration Saturday and will start summer camps for children next week.
The school is in the John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center, next to the Paramount Theatre.
It occupies the first two floors of the 91-year-old former Block and Kuhl building at Galena Boulevard and Stolp Avenue.
It has 19 private classrooms, where people can study music and voice; a nine-keyboard piano instruction laboratory; a group-music room; 10 other group rooms for dance and theater work; a recording studio; and a painting studio.
The Paramount will move rehearsals for its shows out of the Copley Theater into the school. There are four apartments on the first floor for visiting instructors and Paramount performers and directors.
The theater's costume shop also is moving into the building.
"They are changing lives in Aurora by making this happen," Cameron said, of the support given by the Dunham Fund, the city of Aurora and the building's re-developer, The Community Builders Inc.
It will be a place for students to express themselves safely, she said, and children who participate in the arts do better academically and have more empathy, she said. "They may become great artists, but they may become great doctors," businesspeople or parents, she said.
The arts school was budgeted at roughly $15 million for construction, according to Tim Rater, chairman of the Aurora Civic Center Authority and president and chief executive officer of the Paramount Theatre.
Professional performers are some of the instructors for the summer camps, Cameron said. The upcoming world-premiere musical "The Secret of My Success" will use some of the rehearsal space to work on the show. A studio theater has retractable seating, so it can be used for small shows or as a group workspace.
Actor Paul-Jordan Jensen, who was in the recent "Sweeney Todd" production at the Paramount and won a Jefferson Award for his portrayal of the Cowardly Lion in its "The Wizard of Oz," will be one of the first teachers in a new Musical Theater Institute this fall.
The institute will help teenagers who aspire to careers in musical theater.
There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Festivities will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be tours, sample classes, refreshments, and the ability to sign up for summer camps and fall classes.
For more information, or to register for the open house, visit paramountschoolofthearts.com.