The Grand Theatre Center for the Arts in downtown Tracy, like schools across the country, is offering a distance learning program this fall.

A group of familiar instructors who have taught at the Grand before will lead interactive classes that students can access safely from home by computer, tablet or smartphone. Arts education coordinator Valerie Pavlakis will act as moderator for each secure Zoom-based class.

Courses are designed for all ages, from young children to older adults, and include dance, music, drawing and painting, photography, writing and other subject areas.

Division manager Kim Scarlata said developing successful distance learning courses now could allow the Grand’s arts education program to serve a new audience even after the pandemic subsides.

“It’s given us an opportunity to see that there are folks who can’t get out of their houses for whatever reason and that we need to be more mindful of coming up with some alternatives for those folks who can’t get out,” she said. “We’re not going to stop this when we can go back to in-person programming. It may not be as many classes, but we still need to think about: can we offer dance class, can we offer music, can we offer painting to those folks who can’t get out or don’t want to get out.”

The fall session begins Sept. 8, the Tuesday after the Labor Day weekend. Course registration began Thursday, both online at and at the Leona Darr Willis Box Office at the Grand, 715 Central Ave. The box office staff can also be reached at 831-6858 during the city’s regular business hours.

Unlike arts education, the Grand’s presenting season remains on hold. Some shows are tentatively scheduled as soon as early 2021, but Scarlata said reopening the theater depends entirely on when health experts judge it safe to allow large indoor gatherings again.

The galleries are also closed indefinitely, though the staff is considering different possible ways to showcase art for the community.

“I think the Grand’s going to be fine. I think it’s just forced us to be really, really innovative and look at things with a different eye,” Scarlata said.

“We are busy behind those locked doors working on really great things that we want to bring to everyone in the future.”

For information about the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts:

Contact Melanie Smith at or 830-4232.

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