A heart for the arts

Almost 15 years ago, a small group of people met in the teacher’s lounge at the Tracy Elementary School to start up a community arts organization.

Throughout the years, the Fine Arts Council of Tracy has put on a variety of events, from community musicals like “Bye, Bye, Birdie,” “Sound of Music” and “Annie” to Arts in the Afternoon, exhibits, Tracy Reads and Celebration in Song.

FACT was established back in July 2000. Current FACT president Deb Miller remembered how past president Marge Robinson was such a driving force with the organization.

“Marge Robinson just talked me into it, and I went,” Miller said.

Chris Schons is a charter member of the FACT board. She had been involved with Tracy’s children’s choir and helped out Jesse James with school plays.

Katie Lanoue moved to Tracy back in 2007 and was in “Sound of Music” in 2008. That’s when she was approached by Robinson to join FACT.

“She just came to me right away, right after the play was done,” Lanoue said.

The group tries to meet monthly, usually on the second Saturday of the month.

“We have done a good job of sticking to that,” Lanoue said. Lanoue said FACT is a dedicated group.

“We’ve got some people who have their hearts in the arts,” Schons said. FACT also has a number of followers, Schons said, who thought it was important to keep these types of events going.

Miller said FACT will help with advertising for groups and events, such as the development of the kid’s community choir in Tracy. FACT also has a scholarship at the Miss Tracy program and had a float in the Box Car Days parade. Recently, FACT donated $1,000 to the Tracy Foundation for lighting for theater productions at the school.

“We really want to get the stage more up-to-date,” Miller said.

Several years ago, FACT started sponsoring Tracy Reads, where the community reads a book and gets together to discuss it.

“(We) offer the book to anyone who’s interested through the Tracy library,” Lanoue said. The most recent book in the Tracy Reads program was “Home” by Toni Morrison, Lanoue said.

“I think that shows we’re not just about performance arts,” Lanoue said about the Tracy Reads program.

Arts in the Afternoon has run its course, Miller said, and “we haven’t been doing big productions, but we have our standards.”

Lanoue has been in charge of the Celebration in Song, taking over for Robinson, who died last January.

“How could you say no?” Lanoue said.

“Each year I sort of panic,” Lanoue said, about getting enough people interested in taking part in Celebration in Song or the weather.

But this year has been going wonderfully, Lanoue said, with getting musicians of all kinds involved, including ones from Marshall.

Robinson’s death left a void in the arts scene in Tracy. When Miller took over as president, she jokingly told the rest of the board members they had to be vice presidents now.

“We miss Marge a lot because she was so organized,” Miller said.

In place of the community musical last spring, FACT decided to have a variety show.

“It originated with Jesse James and his good friend Ade Miller,” Lanoue said. “They thought this was a way to get other community members (involved).”

Schons said there were people who have said they don’t sing but wanted to take part in a community production.

“This was FACT’s attempt to get those people involved,” Schons said.

Since it was a new idea, no one knew what to expect, the women said. Jesse and Ade took everyone who auditioned, Miller said, picked out different acts and plugged them into different skits and acts.

“People, I think, were a little leery of what it was going to be,” Schons said about last year’s variety show.

About 100 people were involved with the variety show, Schons said. Miller said there was an act where a group sang the song “9 to 5” with a minimal amount of props. A women’s choir performed a number from “Sister Act.” Several boys did a skit about Olympic swimming, Miller said.

“I think what we do is really fun, and it doesn’t get old,” Miller said. “We’re looking forward to some things in the future.”

The women said the arts are important in the area, and FACT continues to work toward providing those events.

“It’s just a different outlet for people besides sports,” Schons said. “We do have all this hidden talent in the area that we have found.”

Plus, it’s another venue for people to enjoy as long as the weather holds up, Schons said.

“The arts provide joy and learning for our youth,” Lanoue said. “They give children a chance to be creative and grow. The arts are also intergenerational. My 90-year-old grandmother and my 1-year-old baby girl can share the same excitement at a concert or the same smile when looking at a painting. What a wonderful thing.”

After Celebration in Song, the next item on FACT’s agenda is having a performance by the Route 68 Big Band on Feb. 21. Lanoue said Jen and Jason Kainz will again give swing lessons in the few weeks prior to the performance.

“That will be a fun night,” Miller said.