Arts And Culture
Franklin County: A Cultural Oasis
In the March 2014 issue of Down East Magazine, Farmington was featured in “The Best Places to Live in Maine”. It notes, “Thanks to the University of Maine at Farmington, the town of Farmington is an oasis of arts and culture in the woods of western Maine.” Farmington is rich in arts and cultural events, but the same could be said for all of Franklin County! The University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) is indeed often at the center of local cultural events. UMF provides the use of the UMF Art Gallery, its newly built Emery Community Arts Center and its grand historical Nordica Auditorium for arts exhibits, folk music, classical quartets, theater performances, cabaret, lectures, poetry, dance, avant-garde happenings, and much more.
Overseeing many of these events is the community-based Arts Institute of Western Maine (a UMF affiliate). This hard-working volunteer group continually strives to broaden the university’s involvement with arts in the community. For seniors, the UMF-affiliated Gold Leaf Institute provides courses and excursions. A community theater organization, The Sandy River Players, is also a UMF affiliate and makes use of UMF’s Alumni Theater and other local venues for its performances.
Outside the University, Farmington still has much to offer. For the youth of the area, the schools themselves are alive with activity. RSU 9 is known for its strong music curriculum where you can find school choruses, an acapella group, chamber choir, show choir, band, jazz band, orchestra, as well as the Franklin County Fiddlers. The Teachers’ Lounge Mafia, an improvisational comedy group, livens up many a gathering. In the summer, students may learn and perform with the Sandy River Players and the Mt. Blue Music Boosters Summer Theater camps. The widely known Maine Jazz Camp, in Farmington for two weeks in July, offers daily faculty concerts free to the public.
For folk music enthusiasts, Farmington is the place to be. Local groups perform at restaurants, grange halls, churches, and festivals. Contra dancing regularly takes place at the West Farmington Grange, and square dancing in nearby Wilton, sponsored by the Friendship Squares. Top professional performances are hosted by New England Celtic Arts.
Among the other events: picnic at the Emery Community Arts Center outdoor concerts; enjoy a performance by “Northfield Singers”; or hear storytellers navigate their way through Maine folklore. Stop in at one of the art galleries to view some of Maine’s finest homegrown art (Sugarwood Gallery, Washburn & Johnson, Upcountry Artists), and even consider taking classes in art or needlework. Do you sing or play an instrument? Join the UMF community chorus, band, or orchestra. Get operatically inspired by the Nordica Memorial Association’s annual concert. Or get active! Join us in yoga, ballet, or jazz classes. In addition to classes provided by local businesses, the Boston City Lights Performing Arts comes to their City Lights North studio in Farmington to offer summer dance classes.
How will you know what’s happening and when? You can check a local online news service, The Daily Bulldog, at or the bi-weekly Franklin Journal at newsstands; both are full of events. Farmington is a small town in Maine which relishes a tradition of craftsmanship. In its cultural events it boldly melds together the old with the new. All in all, Farmington—and other nearby towns in Franklin County—is a small town with character, certainly “an oasis of arts and culture in the hills of Western Maine.”
For more information you can contact the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce or review the following websites: