The Arts

Photo courtesy of
Christa Engelhardt

We are not "Downeast." We are not "The Coast." We are not "The County." We are somewhere in between here and there. Our towns are tucked between mountains and strewn along river banks. The variety of our terrain has made it difficult to find an all-inclusive geographical name for our region. Does no name mean no identity? Certainly we do have an identity. It doesn't yet have a name, but maybe it could be "The Arts Belt." Our visitors and new and longtime residents frequently remark about the unusually high percentage of people here who participate in the arts - as amateurs or professionals, or as audiences and viewers. Most important of all, arts participation here is collaborative, supportive, and non-competitive.

Yes, the arts are vibrant in our region. Many community members are visual and performing artists, writers, and craftspeople who contribute to the cultural and economic life of the community through their work in the schools, small businesses, the University of Maine at Farmington, and their home studios.

Student groups such as Mt. Blue Voices and Franklin County Fiddlers, as well as numerous adult bands specializing in Franco-American folk music, contra-dance music, old-time country, and classic rock 'n' roll, perform at nursing homes and for various community functions. People of all ages exhibit their art work in area banks and stores, at Farmington's Art in the Park, and the Franklin County Fair.

The visual art and music curricula of MSAD 9, the area's largest school system, have a long and proud tradition. To augment the school band and orchestra programs, several area music teachers formed the Mid-Maine Youth Orchestra in 1984. This non-profit community group gives advanced youth musicians experience in learning and performing classical orchestral repertoire.

The UMF music, theater, visual art, and creative writing faculty members are innovative thinkers who are respected in their fields. The UMF choruses, orchestra, and band are true campus/community collaborative efforts, involving local performers and college students. The UMF theater department and the region's stellar community theater group, Sandy River Players, often work together to present performances. This atmosphere of sharing reflects the spirit of the people here.

In addition to Sandy River Players, there are several active arts organizations in the area. Foothills Arts, founded in 1989, presents many community and educational programs: the Foothills Arts Day Camp, visiting artist-teachers "in residence" in the schools, Theater for Peace, and intergenerational projects like original musicals and the Continental Harmony Chorus.

The community musicals, written by committee and performed by 45-member casts of children and adults bring people out of their towns to create together. For many of the cast members, these musicals are their first-ever stage experience. The most recent show, Upcountry Crossings: A Musical on the Rails, played to large and enthusiastic audiences and forged new friendships from the northern tip of Franklin County to the northern Androscoggin Valley.

UpCountry Artists, with over 100 visual arts members, presents monthly programs such as guest speakers and workshops, and an annual arts and crafts fair at Sugarloaf Mt. UCA raises money each year to present the Howard K. Smith scholarships to high school students who plan to major in visual art.

For more than 20 years, The Arts Institute of Western Maine has sponsored chamber music concerts that often feature local professional musicians. Also, AIWM supports the development of young musicians by providing them with performance opportunities.

We certainly have good reason to celebrate the great diversity and high quality of our region's creative output. The joy and satisfaction these activities bring to us as individuals and as a community are priceless.

Kent Wiles, President | Laurie Blake, Executive Director
407 Wilton Road | Farmington, Maine 04938
Tel. (207) 778-4215 | Fax: (207) 778-2438 | Email: