Colby College President David Greene speaks Thursday with National Endowment for the Arts Chairwoman Maria Rosario Jackson, second from right, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, right, about the nearly completed Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts at Colby. The $85 million center is the largest academic building project in the college’s history and is scheduled to open this fall. Photo by Ashley Conti, Colby College

WATERVILLE — U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree was joined by the chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts on Thursday for a tour of downtown and also of Colby College as part of a visit to highlight the city’s burgeoning arts scene.

The pair visited the Paul J. Schupf Art Center and other downtown spots before heading over to Colby to see the Museum of Art and the new Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts. Pingree and NEA Chairwoman Maria Rosario Jackson traveled to Rockland later in the day and are scheduled to visit Portland on Friday as part of a two-day effort to note the importance of federal funding to help spur the arts in Maine communities.

Pingree, a Democrat, is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and sits on an Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding of the NEA.

“Art impacts our lives and it is important to recognize the efforts of each town in cultivating the art scene in Maine,” Pingree said Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, left, and National Endowment for the Arts Chairwoman Maria Rosario Jackson take a tour Thursday at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville. The pair were in Waterville for a tour to highlight the growing arts scene in the city. Sukanya Mitra/Morning Sentinel

The Schupf center opened in December and officials say it so far has had about 65,000 visitors. The center was built by Colby and is home to the arts organization Waterville Creates along with the Maine Film Center, Ticonic Gallery + Studios, and the adjacent Waterville Opera House.

“I love coming to this facility because it exemplifies what we want to see happening in towns around the country,” Pingree said.

Jackson said her visit was part of an effort to support artists, particularly during a transitional time as the state and the country moves beyond the pandemic.

“Going around the country and seeing little pockets of art everywhere has been truly inspirational to me,” Jackson said. “I’m excited for what lies ahead of us.”

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