AUSTIN – The Paramount Theatre has received the largest gift in its 92-year-history: a $1 million grant from the Neil and Elaine Griffin Foundation.
The grant will be used for ongoing preservation efforts of the historic Paramount Theatre, according to Ken Stein, executive director of the Austin Theatre Alliance, which operates the Paramount and State Theatres. Half of the grant must be matched with other private donations within two years which Stein hopes to be part of a larger endowment effort. The theatre also plans to expand its education and outreach efforts.
The Neil and Elaine Griffin Foundation had given previous, smaller gifts to the theatre largely due to Neil’s son, Richard Griffin, who served on the board of the Austin Theatre Alliance in 2005. The younger Griffin was instrumental in securing this latest gift for the theatres.
“This gift will allow us to assess the big picture for restoring the Paramount,” Stein said. “Instead of fixing the roof one year and the air conditioning the next, we’ll be able to bring in restoration experts and architects to create a plan for ensuring the theatre will be here forever.”
Under Stein’s leadership, donations to the Austin Theatre Alliance have increased by 40 percent over the past three years.
“This is a turning point in the history of our organization. A gift of this magnitude allows other gifts to be leveraged so that we can continue to provide the best programming and increase our community outreach and education efforts,” says Hal Katz, Board President. “Our mission is to make arts programming accessible to the widest, most diverse audience possible.”
The Foundation’s gift was inspired by Richard Griffin’s admiration of the Paramount’s space as well as its staff. He and his wife Amy became subscribers to the Paramount shortly after moving to Austin from Kerrville, Texas.
“I hope this gift will serve as a catalyst for larger gifts to this worthy organization. An old theatre like this ca not be replaced and Austin would be a less desirable city without it,” said Richard. “Amy and I wanted the theatre’s staff to know that we believed in their work and wanted to give them an opportunity to take their efforts to the next level,” he added.
“I met Richard and Amy at the theatre almost four years ago,” Stein said. “Richard let me know that he loved old buildings and in particular this old theatre. After Richard left the board, he and Amy stayed involved by joining the Century Club, which is a group of donors helping to prepare the Paramount for its 100th anniversary in 2015.”
Members to the Century Club have established an endowment and have given seed money to invest in some of the new programming and outreach efforts that are now being offered at the Paramount. All Century Club members have given at least $10,000 towards this effort.