NORWAY – The Western Maine Art Group received a donation Monday that will allow it to begin much-needed repairs on the Lajos Matolcsy Arts Center.

When it became apparent that the group was in need, Lajos Matolcsy’s daughter, Aranka, came forward with a donation of $10,000. Aranka Matolcsy, who serves as the group’s vice president, said she hopes her donation will help to continue her father’s legacy in the Oxford Hills area.

“I saw that the group was beginning to lose momentum and effectiveness in the community,” she said. “Given that my father was chosen as the focus of the Norway Summer Festival, I felt it was important to increase that momentum.”

Lajos Matolcsy founded the Western Maine Art Group in 1962 with a group of his students. The art gallery that bears his name is housed in a schoolhouse built in the 1850s. For the past 40 years it has provided a place for Matolcsy’s students and other area artists to show their work.

It looked as though the gallery might be in danger earlier this summer when longtime board President Barbara Traficonte stepped down from her post. The board sent out a letter to local artists, though, and within a week Ralph Whalen of Peru expressed interest in the position. Whalen was voted in at a meeting of the group after Monday’s donation.

One of Whalen’s biggest challenges may be the repairs the art center will need to stay open. Traficonte said Matolcsy’s donation will allow the group to start the necessary work, although more funds will probably be needed. The building needs roof and structural work, as well as a furnace to allow the gallery to remain open in the winter. Given the building’s historic significance, Matolcsy said some of the remaining funds may come from grants.

Lajos Matolcsy’s influence continues to be seen in the Oxford Hills today. The works of Ellie Viles and Marion Stewart, who were among Matolcsy’s first students, will be featured at the Norway Memorial Library in August. All are invited to the opening reception of the show at 6 p.m. Aug. 4. The reception is the last in this summer’s First Fridays series. As part of the series, there will also be opening receptions at the McLaughlin Foundation Garden, and The Painted Mermaid, both in Paris, and The Fare Share Commons in Norway.

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