The classical Grand Theatre, designed by architect Albert W. Cornelius, opened on August 11, 1923 as a premiere vaudeville half-house in the area. Conceived and built by German-born entrepreneur John C. Droge, the theatre was converted to show “talkies” by the late 1920’s.
The facility received a major remodel during its heyday between 1939 and 1941 (under the Allen’s ownership), garnered with bold new art deco features including a sculptural marquee designed by Alexander Cantin and futuristic mural by Anthony (Antoon) Heinsbergen. Between the mid-40’s and 1977, it functioned as an eclectic movie house with occasional live performances. As of today, three generations of our community have enjoyed and experienced entertainment and fine art at the facility. Droge’s imprints are still felt across the block at Central Avenue and 7th St. as the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts. He operated a corner store in what is now the South Gallery, built the (then named) Shamrock (1906) and American (1909) Hotels now housing the GWF Energy Gallery and Arts Education Studios, principally invested in the Bank of Tracy where the Souza Family Gallery and Loggia resides, and his crown jewel of Tracy – the Grand Theatre, has been historically renovated to once again offer live performances of all kinds, as well as multi-media presentations and cinema.
The Grand is an amazing facility due its thoughtful development as a professional arts organization and educative center within City government, as well as an important public resource as an economic redevelopment project in downtown Tracy. Hundreds of community leaders, arts patrons, educators and parents contributed to the planning process that ultimately designed the amenities and programming of the Center.
This municipal interdisciplinary arts center is the only one of its kind in the state of California offering professional and community-based fine arts programming through arts education, exhibitions, performances and rentals of all kinds, in a single complex, and is one of only a small network of similar facilities in America.
The 37,000+ square foot facility opened in September of 2007, hosts over 50,000 patrons a year, and is currently celebrating its 15th Anniversary Season in 2021-22. The Center is owned and operated by the City of Tracy and managed by the Cultural Arts Division in the City Manager’s Office. The Grand Foundation is a private 501.(C)3 fundraising and community partner providing annual underwriting for programming and technical support, as well as contributing to an endowment fund to provide long-term financial stability.
The Grand has been honored with awards from The California Heritage Council and the California Preservation Foundation and has been acknowledged in the State Legislature and U.S. Congress. The Center was recognized nationally as one of fifty unique and important cultural redevelopment projects studied in 2010. The information gained from this research project assists in the development of new art and cultural centers in communities across America.
The Cultural Arts Division Staff is available to consult with arts & cultural groups, and government and planning professionals seeking information for use in their own projects. Public tours and technical/operational site visits are offered.
The Grand Theatre Center for the Arts is a member organization of Americans for the Arts and the Theatre Historical Society of America, and supports the advocacy and programming of the California Arts Council and the Creative Work Fund.