Ann Langley paused at a section of wall outside of the Eleni Kounalakis Theatre and drew members of her tour closer asking them to look at the rough face of stone. She pointed to pieces of wood still embedded in the rock, harking back to the theater’s original construction.
The feature was one of many Langley pointed as she gave a training tour to Grand Foundation members and volunteers on Saturday at the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts.
The city already conducts tours of the facility but Foundation tours like the one Langley led Saturday are set to begin soon as special events to showcase the history and heart of the facility.
“A lot of this history was in my head and not on paper,” Langley said. “I share it with people all the time, but it was important for a couple of reasons. First of all, for our board members to understand why we do what we do is really important. It helps them to be able to tell the story of the Grand outside of the board room, it helps them to have a sense of context, and we all need the sense of historical context with these buildings and the partnership with the city.”
Langley, a past president and executive board member of the Grand Foundation led a group of foundation members and volunteers around the theater and explained some of the history behind the walls.
Langley said she was at the Grand almost every day during its deconstruction and construction 17-plus years ago, and that gave her a unique insight and extensive history into the theater’s details and features.
“As I became more educated, and I credit many of the workman who were onsite, they would explain to me how these things were made. They would find things in the deconstruction and say, ‘You want this? And it’s an old piece of rusted iron, and I would say, ‘Absolutely I want that,” Langley said. “The pieces of this building as it was deconstructed and then reconstructed became for me a metaphor for how we can honor our heritage while making a future that looks different and brighter for us.”
The Grand Foundation is a community-based non-profit organization supporting arts education and programming in Tracy and surrounding communities. The Foundation has provided programmatic and financial support to the Grand Theatre with annual underwriting contributions since its opening in 2007. Foundation underwriting continues to support concerts, exhibitions, classes, workshops and special events, in addition to providing arts supplies, art-making and technical equipment, and hospitality services. The Foundation currently has about 120 members.
Dave Garcia, executive director of the foundation, joined in the tour and agreed it was important to pass on the history of the building to new generations.
“For this tour project it’s something we’ve talked about for years. Everyone just loves the great job that Ann does on the tour, and it has taken me this long to start working on the structure of what a recorded tour would look like,” Garcia said. “We want to encapsulate the heart of what the foundation does for the community, even for some of the board members that have been around for eight or 10 years. That’s only a third of Ann’s history with this project so like she said all the board members need to be able to retell those stories that brought us where we are today.”
Langley said the new program will expand the knowledge of the Grand for future generations.
“I want people to understand why this building belongs to them. It belongs to them and everybody in this community, even those not born yet,” Langley said. “It’s up to us to make sure that it is passed to them in pristine condition and with a sense of context. People want more than an address, they want a hometown, this is about as hometown as it gets.”
The tour covered the outside, interiors classrooms and performance areas while Langley shared her knowledge of the history of the building along with its current use.
Steve Hunger, a member of the Foundation’s membership committee, was also on the tour and understood the importance of sharing the facility with the community.
“I’m blown away by when we do a little event walking through here and the people who come in for the first time and say, ‘Wow, this is cool!’ They have no idea where they are at and what’s here,” Hunger said.
During the last Wine Stroll the theatre doors were left open as part of an open house to show off some of the facility to visitors.
“People would come in and we’re pouring wine and they were, ‘Wow, what is this?’ Let me tell you I would take them by the hand and walk them into the theater and say, ‘Look what you’re missing,’” Hunger said.
Tours given by the Grand Foundation could differ based on the groups and their interests.
“I think the tours we give aren’t going to be as in-depth as what we just had but they will be with the hopes of just making people familiar with what a gem this is,” Hunter said.
A video recording of a tour is planned for March for use by the Foundation as they spread the word about the Grand’s offerings.
“Internally, we would like to do a series of these. So we do have all those little details in the back of our mind as we’re walking through so we can share that knowledge, not just, ‘Take a right, there’s the gallery. Take a left there’s the box office,’” Garcia said. “Like she said … it’s still a living, breathing building. We’re constrained to this footprint but there are constant upgrades, programs interchanging and upgrades to the theater and it’s great to be a part of that. The tours are inviting a newer generation of community members to become a part and to invest in this crown jewel that we have.”
For more information about the Grand Foundation visit https://www.grandfoundation.org/ For information about the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts visit https://atthegrand.org/
• Contact Glenn Moore at email@example.com, or call 209-830-4252.