Since joining the city staff in early October, Tracy’s new cultural arts leader has been busy dealing with two major challenges — familiarizing herself with the many operations of the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts and at the same time dealing with issues of a theater and educational programs emerging from Covid19 restrictions.
Anna Cross has come from Yucaipa in Southern California to succeed retiring Kim Scarlata as the city’s cultural arts division manager, which translates into overseeing everything going on at the Grand.
But despite the challenges, Anna is more than happy, actually quite enthusiastic, being in Tracy and working at the Grand. She made this quite clear when I sat down with her Tuesday morning in her office on the second floor of the Grand’s lobby.
“My first event at the Grand was ‘Dancing with the Tracy Stars.’ It was wonderful,” she said. “I was so happy to see how enthusiastic the community support for the arts was at that event. People were just so thrilled to be back in the theater.”
One of her first priorities is boosting the marketing of professional entertainment at the Grand, not only in Tracy but also nearby communities.
“We’ve got to find new ways of connecting with our audiences,” she said.
Sponsors will be sought to provide financial support for at least several of the major events, she added.
Anna told me how she happened to make her way from Southern California to Tracy.
After learning that the job at the Grand was opening up, she drove up to see her dad in Half Moon Bay, where she grew up.
“I was on my way back o L.A., so I said to myself that I knew the job in Tracy had opened up, so let me go and see the theater,” she reported. “The moment I came in and saw the Grand, I completely fell in love with it. I could tell that the community really valued arts and culture and that there are really strong leaders and support in Tracy.”
She said she realized that given her professional background of 25 years of working in performing arts centers, it was a great opportunity to be involved in what she saw as “a perfect blend of a professional performing arts program, an arts education element and public art in the galleries.”
Anna was born in London, England, grew up in Half Moon Bay and earned a bachelor’s degree in ethnic musicology from UC Santa Barbara.
After graduation, she was a playhouse director in San Gabriel and then public-event manager and theater-rental manager at UCLA.
Before coming to Tracy, she was general manager of the Performing Arts Center in Yucaipa, a city of some 50,000 in San Bernardino County. She worked in Yucaipa while her husband, Gar Culbert, has been a political science professor at Cal State Los Angeles.
She said she had a good experience in Yucaipa despite the Covid-19 closing of the performing arts center, but Tracy offered a wider range of cultural arts activities along with a theater that was opening up as pandemic restrictions are lifted.
“Meeting at Tracy City Hall with the city manager and personnel director, and then meeting the staff were really important with me,” she said. “It’s the team you work for and work with, and it’s nice to be around a really good group of people.”
The work — and enthusiasm — of Anna Cross is already making a positive imprint on the Tracy cultural arts scene of our town.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at email@example.com.