Throughout Auburn’s history, there have been numerous Arts Councils, and their efforts made Auburn lively and culturally aware. The Auburn Arts Commission was created in the mid-1980s by the City of Auburn, Indiana, with the purpose of encouraging the arts in the community. In 1994, under Mayor Norm Rohm, the Commission became independent from the city as a not-for-profit organization and broadened its focus to include all of DeKalb County. The organization concentrated on five areas: fine art, writing, music, drama and theater, and patronage of the arts.
Early projects included an annual fine art show, poetry readings, salon concerts for small gatherings, and a children’s theater summer workshop. The organization broadened its scope in the mid-1990s to serve all of the DeKalb County. Outdoor Jazz Fests featuring high school and university musicians were held in 2005 and 2006 in the park at Eckhart Public Library. The annual Snowbound Writers Contest, held each January for amateur writers, has continued for 20 years.
The organization’s signature achievement is two exhibits of J. Seward Johnson’s realistic bronze sculptures. The first, Sculptures on the Square in 2007, featured 20 life-size, realistic statues of people doing everyday things. The second, Sculptures on the Square: Encore!” in 2010, exhibited 16 life-size statues and a 25-foot, monumental statue of a dancing couple.
Other projects include school and public concerts by guitar virtuoso Edgar Cruz in 2011, a National Geographic photography exhibit, “The Soil Beneath Our Feet” with photographer Jim Richardson in 2012, and “Pianos on the Square” in 2013, placing decorated, playable pianos in Auburn, Butler, Garrett and Waterloo. The success of these projects has changed the community’s perception of the value of the arts in residents’ lives, and in 2014 the DeKalb Community Foundation honored the arts commission with its “Change Maker” Award.
The organization is now at work planning its 2016 project, “Sculptures on the Square III: The Magic of Metal,” an exhibit of original metal sculptures created by regional professional artists.