2018 Business of the Year – James Library and Center for Arts


The James Library & Center for the Arts is a non-profit organization offering programs in music, art, and literature.  Housed in a landmark 1874 Victorian building in the heart of historic Norwell Center, the James features a concert hall with a Steinway B grand piano, a free lending library, and an art gallery offering new exhibits each month. The James Library & Center for the Arts is free and open to the public.

While the building is owned by First Parish Church of Norwell, the James is overseen by its own Board of Directors and its day-to-day operations and finances are managed independently.  The mission of The James is to inspire creativity, learning, and an appreciation for the arts through music, visual, and literary programs, in a historic and welcoming space for the community.

Our beautiful Victorian building originally housed the First Parish Church of Norwell library and was then home to Norwell’s Public Library until 1973.  In 1991, the James was recast as an arts center, and today it offers concerts, music lessons, art exhibits, a community meeting space, and a range of cultural events.

As a small community arts center, the James consists of a 90-seat performance venue, a lending library, and an art gallery.  Activities offered include:

  • A wide range of concerts from classical to jazz to Celtic music
  • Community events such as Books in Bloom (a biennial event that features themed flower arrangements), the biennial Historic House Tour, and the annual Holiday Marketplace
  • Programs for families with young children such as story times, “Best Children’s Books” events, sing-a-long concerts, and puppet shows
  • Free weekly informational, educational, and interactive events led by local experts and leaders entitled “Mondays at the James”
  • Piano and vocal lessons coordinated by two music professionals
  • Book clubs and literary discussion groups
  • Meeting space for community groups
  • Saturday art classes for children
  • Rental space for special events and music recitals
  • Volunteer opportunities for adults and students interested in library science and art
  • Art Gallery events and free exhibition space for local artists throughout the year
  • Free meeting space for local volunteer tutors and their students
  • Spoken word programs such as story slams, historical presentations, and literary events
  • A free lending library for adults and children offering a current collection of popular fiction and non-fiction, classics, and collections focused on local history
  • Free access to Ancestry.com Library Edition and a volunteer expert to assist with genealogical research

The James has become a vibrant regional arts destination that supports Norwell and the entire South Shore community with a variety of programs and activities offered year-round.

The James’ part-time staff and over 50 active volunteers plan and carry out dozens of events each season.

Over eighty children and adults take piano lessons six days a week on the James’ two pianos, and ten local music teachers hold their student music recitals at the James. The James is also the home of the Studio Chorus, a children’s chorus led by music teacher and James Music Director Dona Maher, and both Dona and Janna Bruene teach daily piano lessons.

Community organizations meet or hold events at the James for a reduced fee or at no cost. These groups include the North River Gardeners, the Norwell Women’s Club, the Norwell Summer Fest planning committee, the Norwell Scholastic Arts Society, the First Parish Cemetery Committee, and more.


Business of the Year from Ellen Allen

“Norwell is lucky to have “The James,” a truly unique town jewel. It serves the community in so many ways…a place for concerts, art exhibits, story slams, Monday lectures, book clubs, a place for music lessons and (of course!) a library. The creative programming it provides is matched by its creative fundraisers: Holiday Marketplace, Books in Bloom and Valentine Chocolate Party to name a few. It reaches people of all ages and from all over the South Shore. They are currently in the midst of a capital campaign to make the entire building truly accessible to all. Being BOY could help boost those efforts or perhaps it could be selected in a few years as a way of celebrating the success of the campaign.”