Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Time to upgrade with new chairs at the Paradise March 24, 2023

Inside the Paradise Center for the Arts theater in 2009, two years after it opened. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2009)

THEY’VE HAD A 16-YEAR RUN, “they” being the recycled seats filling the Paradise Center for the Arts theater in historic downtown Faribault. Now it’s time for those seats to take a bow, exit and make way for new seating.

The aged chairs landed here as a donation from Albert Lea High School. The Merlin Players theatrical troupe then recovered and repaired the chairs before the PCA opened in 2007. It was the right decision at the time, financially and otherwise.

Watching the 2015 Kentucky Derby at the Paradise. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2015)

Since then, thousands have settled into those orangish chairs, including me. I’ve enjoyed plays, musicals, concerts, comedy shows, speakers and even a viewing of the Kentucky Derby while sitting on those chairs. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried while seated here. After years of use, an upgrade to more comfortable seating for 278 is definitely needed.

In the lobby of the Paradise, you can try out a model of the new chairs, with the original ornate standards (ends) retained. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

When I stopped at the Paradise recently to see the current gallery exhibits, I noticed a model of the new seats in the lobby. Days later, I received a news release from the PCA with more info and then followed up with a few questions.

I like the plan to install chairs with more comfort, strength and durability, but also with an appreciation for the past. The current ornate ends and the numbered arm rests will be kept. That’s important to me given the historic charm of the auditorium and also as someone who believes strongly in reusing/recycling/upcycling.

One especially nice addition will be cup holders, placed between the two seats in front of each guest. That will certainly cut down on accidental spillage which can occur when drinks are set on the floor.

The lovely Paradise, 321 Central Avenue North, in the heart of historic downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2023)

Now efforts are underway to fund this $460/chair or $128,000 project via donations. If you would like to donate, go to the Paradise website and click on “Donate,” then “Support,” then specify “chairs” in designating your donation. Or call 507-332-7372. Donors will be listed on a plaque.

I look forward to settling into one of these comfortable new maroon chairs to enjoy the performing arts in my community, inside the Paradise.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling