The James

The best in the arts close to home!


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 Victorian building originally housed the First Parish of Norwell library and was then home to Norwell’s Public Library until 1973. In 1991, the James was recast as a community arts center, and today it offers concerts, music lessons, art exhibits, a community meeting space, and a range of cultural events. The James is totally self-supporting and relies on annual financial support from the community.

While affiliated with First Parish of Norwell, the James is self-operated and funded separately and can receive grants, donations and community funding through its James Library Charitable Trust (EIN 20-4861292). The Board of Directors (where church members make up a majority) includes Wendy Bawabe, Nancy Fuller, Shastin Garland, Meredith Atkinson, Peg Carpenter, Bill Houser, Susan Davis, Sue Sulc, and Paula White (as of July, 2017).

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

–  A wide range of concerts ranging from classical, to jazz and folk music
–  Community events such as Books in Bloom and the Holiday Marketplace
–  Programs for families with young children such as story times, concerts and puppet shows
–  Music lessons utilizing the James’ two pianos
–  Book clubs and literary discussion groups
–  Meeting space for community groups
–  Rental space for special events and music recitals
–  Art Gallery events offering exhibition space for local artists throughout the year
–  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 specialty collections focused on local history.

The James has become a vibrant place within the South Shore arts community with its active music instruction schedule, a stream of library patrons visiting daily, and daily activities offered throughout the year.


In March, 2016, The James Library & Center for the Arts in Norwell Center submitted an Application for Variance to the Architectural Access Board (AAB) in Boston. The AAB is the state agency that oversees accessibility compliance (similar to the Department of Justice oversight of federal ADA regulations). 

One “variance” requested was for the James’ architecturally and historically significant front entryway. We asked the AAB if we could create a new, fully-accessible entrance on the side of our building to maintain the existing front historic facade. Typically, the AAB prefers the most prominent entrance to a building to be its accessible entrance. The alterations proposed also included a three-story elevator in the back of the building, a handicapped-accessible bathroom on the main floor, and small alterations throughout the building to allow our patrons full access to all three floors. Our variance application proposed to make our historic three-story building fully accessible to the disabled. It was our hope that if written approval was granted from the AAB, we could begin soliciting funds for our project soon thereafter.

The James Board and staff are pleased to announce that on April 28, 2016, the AAB granted us the variances we requested with a few small conditions, including new railings for our front (main) entryway. The AAB appreciated the James’ proactive attitude toward accessibility, and the James Board and Staff appreciate the AAB’s willingness to advise us on this exciting project!

Given that The James’ annual budget is less than $100,000 per year, our Board of Directors has realized that an Accessibility Capital Campaign will be necessary. We view success as achieving full accessibility within three years. 

The James Library & Center for the Arts is a small, vibrant community arts center. Because we are not accessible to everyone, our “community arts center” moniker is a misnomer. The James cannot be truly inclusive to the community until we are accessible to everyone. We look forward to the day when we truly are a “Community Arts Center” to all!


The Mission of the James is to inspire creativity,
learning, and an appreciation for the arts through music, visual, and literary programs,

 in an historic and welcoming space for the community.