You might say that Auburn-Opelika has a thing for the arts. After all, the city of Auburn constructed the Jan Dempsey Community Arts Center to promote cultural activities, and it also dreamed up CityFest, the largest free outdoor festival in the area.
The Jan Dempsey Center sponsors many activities such as art, dance and theater classes, an art gallery, community theater and art exhibits by both regional and national artists. Held the last Saturday of April at Kiesel Park, CityFest is Auburn’s biggest festival of the year. For an event that just started in 2000, CityFest has seen phenomenal growth: In 2007, more than 40,000 people attended. What’s the big draw? Arts and crafts exhibits, music, shopping, food, rock climbing, inflatables, a 5K race for pets and their people … the list goes on and on.
Other warm weather events mean that summer evenings are full of more than just fireflies in Auburn-Opelika. The annual concert series Summer Swing at Municipal Park keeps Opelika nights full of the sound of music, from country and folk to rock and gospel. And the Auburn Summer Night Art Walks give patrons a chance to view original art in local venues.
But you don’t have to wait until special events such as these to experience the creative arts of the community. The Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art on the Auburn University campus has eight exhibition galleries and a collection devoted mainly to 19th and 20h century American and European Art. And the Auburn University Theatre hosts acclaimed performers such as the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Steve Martin. Arts also take center stage in Opelika, at the Opelika Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts world-class productions such as the San Francisco Opera and the New York City Opera. And the Museum of East Alabama in the historic Opelika downtown district showcases the fascinating history of the region. To see that history come alive, be sure to take the Victorian Front Porch Tour of Opelika in December, in which lovely old homes – and their porches — are festooned with Old World decorations.