Attractions Category: Western Lakes & Mountains
The second Saturday in July
In 1962, Lajos Matolcsy formed an arts organization, the Western Maine Art Group. The original members included Lajos’s students Lee Bean, Anne Beyer, Ellie Viles, and Marion Stewart. The group met at the Matolcsy home in South Paris.
By 1966, the group had expanded beyond the home of its founder and began to look for a permanent home. At the same time, the towns of Norway and Paris were working towards a school consolidation which would leave an old one-room schoolhouse on Main Street in Norway available for other uses.
The group seized the opportunity. After some negotiations and with the help of the Town of Norway, they were able to purchase the school, which to this day remains the home of the Western Maine Art Group (WMAG).
Norway Arts Festival roots are deep. In 1967, the WMAG created an art show that started a tradition of a summertime public arts festival along the historic Main Street of Norway know as the Sidewalk Art Festival.
In 2003, under the direction of Norway Downtown, a committee of energetic and committed community members assembled to organize a new incarnation of the festival built around the Sidewalk Art Show with the addition of vibrant performances, a celebration of Norway’s historic past and the first Poets on the Porch.
Through the years, the Festival has featured notable figures such as Fine Artist Vivian Akers, Fiddler Mellie Dunham, Mineralogist and Naturalist George Howe, and Photographer Minnie Libby. In 2006, 25 years after his death, Lajos Matolcsy was selected as the featured cultural figure of the Norway Arts Festival, recognizing his place in Norway’s history. In 2008, the committee chose Lake Pennesseewassee as the focus for the festival, bringing the cultural landscape and natural beauty of Norway into the forefront.
In 2008, a collaborative partnership formed between Norway Downtown (ND) and the WMAG to co-sponsor the Festival which, at the same time, was officially renamed the Norway Arts Festival. The partnership between ND and WMAG, which also includes community-member volunteers who comprise the Norway Arts Festival Steering Committee, has led to a series of highly successful festivals drawing the largest audiences in its history. In 2010, the Festival celebrated 43 years and has the distinction of being among the longest lived and largest in Maine. That was also the year that the Norway Arts Festival and the Town of Norway took steps to close the street for the first time bringing the Festival into a new era—an idea that has been proven to be a hit with both artists and visitors.
The Norway Arts Festival has grown into a four day event with something for everyone. In addition to fine art paintings festival visitors will find photography, three dimensional works in metal, stone, glass and wood, as well as, hand printing, lithography, jewelry, fiber arts and entertainment for both young and old. The artists, artisans and performers hail from all over Maine, as well as from parts of New England.