OWATONNA — It’s no overstatement to declare that Silvan Durben has devoted his adult life to the Owatonna Arts Center, so it’s apropos that the long-time creative director now has a scholarship named after him.
“I’m honored and humbled to have a scholarship named after me,” Durben said. “I want to encourage people on their journey in the arts.”
Graduates of Steele County high schools who are majoring in the arts and have post-secondary work in an accredited program are eligible for the $1,000 scholarship, more details about which can be found on the OAC website, oacarts.org. Applications for the inaugural scholarship are due by October 11.
“I really believe in education and want to give a little boost to those going into the arts,” Durben said. “That is important.”
Applicants must include a self-written statement indicating goals, aspirations, and career-related information. In addition, the student’s art, work history, sense of purpose, degree of self-initiative, leadership, loyalty, citizenship, and community service may be considered by the scholarship committee.
Because a plethora of scholarships for high school students already exist, the OAC board of directors and OAC Endowment Board felt this scholarship should be offered to students with post-secondary years of study under their belt, said CJ Brase, president of the OAC board. “We can help someone who has already started” a path toward the arts but who needs “an extra boost.”
The genesis of the scholarship occurred when the community celebrated Durben’s 40th anniversary with the OAC in 2017. At that time, numerous donations were made by magnanimous individuals in his honor.
Marlene Camilli later suggested the OAC Endowment could supplement those gracious gifts to raise the total amount to $25,000, enough to offer a named scholarship, she said. That way, “we wouldn’t need any additional requests for more money.”
The OAC board and OAC Endowment board were unanimous in their decision to move ahead with this scholarship in Durben’s name, Brase said. “Part of (Durben’s) legacy is his long commitment to the arts center, and we want to honor that legacy.”
The $25,000 is being managed by the Minnesota Community Foundation, and the interest in that principle will be used to pay out the annual scholarships, Durben said. “We won’t spend it all down,” so the scholarship undoubtedly “will outlive me.”
The arts “have enriched my life, and I want them to continue enriching the lives of others,” Durben said. The arts “bring new ways of looking, thinking, and seeing.”
Offering an arts scholarship in Durben’s name is “important because of his legacy at the arts center,” where he’s labored “for 40 years to keep it going, and everything he’s done to bring it to the level it is now,” Camilli said. The scholarship will create opportunities for “future people in the field of the arts.”
Durben has “been a great resource here,” Camilli added. “He does so many things that go above and beyond.”