Daily Herald, Bev Horne) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT, TV OUT, Associated Press
AURORA, Ill. — If Richard and Arlene Hawks have anything to say about it, the gem of Aurora — also known as the Paramount Theatre — will sparkle even brighter in the future.
The Hawks recently were named chairmen of the Paramount Arts Centre Endowment to provide funding for the 1,888-seat, 1930s art deco theater.
With their support and leadership over the years, the Paramount already has been restored to its former glory, added a 12,000-square-foot Grand Gallery, hired its first artistic director and successfully launched a locally produced Broadway series.
The Hawks are pleased with all that's happened, but they're ready to do more. The endowment, which provides money annually for Paramount programs and equipment, needs to actively raise funds, the Hawks said in a recent interview.
"The gem of the city needs to flourish long after we're gone," Arlene said.
Although they admit they're too new at the helm of the endowment board to set specific goals, they're already starting to dream.
Their son, Victor, an actor and producer now living in Hollywood, has written a movie that's being produced and they hope he'll agree to premiere "Construction" at the Paramount.
Arlene wants to expand the theater's gift shop and sell merchandise related to the coming season of Broadway shows. Meet-and-greet events with cast members, workshops and children's theater on Saturdays are all part of the future that she envisions.
Of course, they'll need to bring in more community members involved with theater to serve on the endowment board.
"It's a board we plan to grow," Arlene said.
It was with good reason that the endowment board, with the support of Aurora Mayor Tom Weiser, chose the Hawks to spearhead the organization.
"Dick and Arlene were the natural choice to lead PACE into a new era," outgoing Chairwoman Barbara Katterman said in a news release announcing the choice.
"Arlene has spent nearly four decades instilling a love of theater into Aurora children, and Dick has served on the Paramount board for more than two decades."
Dick Hawks was appointed to the Aurora Civic Center Authority, which oversees the Paramount, in 1987 and resigned only to lead the endowment board.
Back when he started, the theater was doing so poorly that the Civic Authority board took up collections to pay staff members, he recalled. But with some new programs to make money and an infusion of cash from Aurora's riverboat casino, things at the Paramount started to turn around.
Hawks was at the helm of the Civic Center Authority when the Paramount raised $6.5 million to construct the 12,000-square-foot Grand Gallery that opened in 2006. Arlene and her friend, Hilary Brennan, headed the fundraising volunteer committee for the project.
"Their efforts are the reason we have a new lobby," said Katie Arko, director of development at the Paramount for the past 10 years.
Generous donors themselves, the Hawks provided the money for the box office, which is named after them. They also are avid patrons of all the Paramount's concerts and shows, Arko said.
"It would be very odd to go to any production at the Paramount and not see them sitting in the front row to support what we do here," she said.
Arko said the endowment fund the Hawks now head, started by the late Anne Goldsmith, has been key to the success of the Paramount.
"The endowment funds we receive every year for equipment and programming help us bring in shows we might not otherwise afford, but they also help us keep ticket prices down," she said.
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