MEANINGFUL MURAL: The Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft and employee / artist Tianni Hooper. Picture: Mike Knott.
MEANINGFUL MURAL: The Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft and employee / artist Tianni Hooper. Picture: Mike Knott.

No writing on the wall for business, just special artwork

WHILE COVID-19 has been disruptive, the show must go on and for one business it goes on with a big, beautiful wall mural.

After closing for two long months, The Paragon Theatre has reopened their espresso bar and is in the process of reopening the theatre.

And while it has been a challenging time for most local business owners, Merissa Craft has chosen to look on the bright side, using the extra time wisely.

“Business is a lot slower without travellers as we are on the highway and we usually get 100-300 people to events and need the larger numbers for the theatre to be financially viable,” Ms Craft said.

“I have wanted to have a mural painted for a long time as I love artwork but as we are open seven days a week, we haven’t had the time, but isolation allowed for the mural to be started and to make minor renovations around the building too.”

MEANINGFUL MURAL: The Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft and employee / artist Tianni Hooper. Picture: Mike Knott.
MEANINGFUL MURAL: The Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft and employee / artist Tianni Hooper. Picture: Mike Knott.

Painted by Tianni Hooper, who has been an employee at The Paragon Theatre since 2018 and is now a single mother and on her gap year, the stunning mural took a total of three weeks.

“Tianni is an incredible artist and so passionate about The Paragon, so I wanted her to be able to leave her mark on the place and it also gave her a great opportunity to work on her first mural and commercial project for her portfolio,” Ms Craft said.

Featuring film star Marilyn Monroe and singer Ella Fitzgerald, the two historical figures in the entertainment industry represents the heart of The Paragon; classic films and musical performances.

And the meaning behind the piece goes much deeper than just being aesthetically pleasing.

“The Paragon is a place of equality, love and friendship which this mural represents well because Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald were good friends and Marilyn helped Ella get her break into bigger venues and fought for equality in a time of segregation,” Ms Craft said.

“Both Ella and Marilyn are significant and strong women in history and as The Paragon was previously owned by my great-grandmother, my grandmother and now myself, with the help of the beautiful and intelligent women who work for me, I felt it was a strong symbol of us all.”

MEANINGFUL MURAL: The Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft and employee / artist Tianni Hooper. Picture: Mike Knott.
MEANINGFUL MURAL: The Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft and employee / artist Tianni Hooper. Picture: Mike Knott.

In addition, both women have been painted to say quotes which also resonate with the business owner.

“Marilyn says ‘imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring,’ which sums me up perfectly and Ella says ‘it isn’t where you came from, it is where you’re going that counts’.

“It has been a very trying 13 plus years of owning The Paragon, trying to restore it and build the business with many hurdles both personally and professionally during that time, but I am hopeful and focused on a bright future.”

Converted into a theatre in 1927, The Paragon has been part of Ms Craft’s family since the early 60s.

Full of character and charm, the Childers business was closed for almost two decades, before Ms Craft worked to restore it and the theatre reopened in 2014.

The espresso bar opened a year later to further assist with covering business costs.

“It is state heritage listed building and one of very few of its kind left and still operating in Australia, so it is important for me to keep the doors open,” Ms Craft said.

“It also allows international and interstate visitors, other Queenslanders and locals to enjoy our beautiful old girl as much as I do and that brings money into Childers as patrons stay in our accommodation, eat at our restaurants and visit our stores.”

MEANINGFUL MURAL: The Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft and employee / artist Tianni Hooper. Picture: Mike Knott.
MEANINGFUL MURAL: The Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft and employee / artist Tianni Hooper. Picture: Mike Knott.

Ms Craft said she was grateful for local, talented artists like Tianni and Meredyth Castro, who is behind the incredible upcycled pieces within the venue.

“Our tables, lighting, VIP bar, shelving – Meredyth takes parts of this building and furniture pieces that have been laying around and turns them into magnificent pieces that us and customers can then enjoy,” Ms Craft said.

“Between her work and Tianni’s, our customers are able to enjoy their coffee while admiring original artwork, pieces of a vintage theatre, the history and stories surrounding them and I think that makes us a very unique venue even without walking through the amazing auditorium of The Paragon.”

MEANINGFUL MURAL: The Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft and employee / artist Tianni Hooper. Picture: Mike Knott.
MEANINGFUL MURAL: The Paragon Theatre owner Merissa Craft and employee / artist Tianni Hooper. Picture: Mike Knott.

Due to the restrictions still in place and until they are lifted completely, the theatre will remain closed, but the espresso bar has reopen for patrons to enjoy a coffee and admire the stunning, new artwork.

“We had such a great year planned, but everything had to be cancelled or postponed until restrictions are lifted to allow travellers and unlimited numbers of people to be able to attend events and as our sling seats are nice and cosy, it would be hard to ensure social distancing guidelines were followed,” Ms Craft said.

“One of the live shows we are really looking forward to later in the year is the return of The Kitty Kats, a group from the Sunshine Coast, who performed ‘Bringing Booty Back’ at the burlesque show last year.

“They will be bringing their full band to perform a show called “In The Mood” which is a Rock n’ Roll and Swing Dance Show.”

In addition to the incredible live theatre performances, patrons can also look forward to screenings of classic and cult films, set to return to The Paragon in accordance with eased restrictions.

For more information, visit paragontheatre.com.au.



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