(Courier file photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
(Courier file photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Historic Eleutherian College will kick off its "Education and Cultural Program" series this weekend and end with a fall celebration in September.

The college will host Bloomington Irish group Celtica with special guests Southwestern middle/high school band on Saturday. The event is free and scheduled to run from 1 to 3 p.m.

The Eleutherian board was reorganized in 2012 and has since made an effort to focus on educational and cultural events. The Lancaster college was the first college in the nation to enroll students regardless of race or gender.

Larry DeBuhr, president of Historic Eleutherian College Inc., said rather than opening the property as a small museum, the board found it more appropriate to host events to celebrate the site's incredible history.

"My feeling is the more people that get out there and see the building and step inside it, it's almost a spiritual experience," he said, adding that visitors "go away with a new appreciation of the building and its history."

The college is entirely funded through donations, and one of the board's goals is to raise enough money to fully restore the first floor and balcony of the building as close to its original condition as possible. Renovating those areas will make the interior more inviting, DeBuhr said.

"That will make that building much more useful for education and cultural events, as well as for some of our tours," he said.

Following Saturday's concert, the college plans to host an event every month this spring and summer, ending in September with the fall celebration. All events are free, but donations will be accepted.

On May 10, the college will host "Created Equal," a juried art competition open to high school student and art teachers. The submissions, which are due by Friday, should carry the theme "Created Equal" in regard to Civil Rights and racial, cultural and gender equality.

The show is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and awards will be announced from 3 to 4 p.m.

In June, July and August, the college will show PBS films and host discussions on race equality as part of a series funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities' Bridging Cultures initiative, Indiana Arts Commission and Guilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Each of the three programs begins at 1 p.m. with a free tour of the college. The discussions begin at 3 p.m.

The series includes:

• On June 7, the college will show clips from the PBS series "The Abolitionists," with a presentation and discussion by Dr. Geoffrey Weiss.

• On July 19, the college will show clips from the PBS series "Slavery by another Name," with a presentation by Dr. Patty Dillon of Spalding University.

• On Aug. 9, the college will show clips from the PBS series "Freedom Riders," with a presentation by Dr. Eric Jackson of Northern Kentucky University.

DeBuhr said the board continues to plan for the fall celebration, which is scheduled for Sept. 22.