Cowan, North, Zimmer appreciate importance of the arts in our economy

BELLOWS FALLS — We endorse Rick Cowan, Bonnie North, and Elijah Zimmer, who are running for the Rockingham Selectboard on Tuesday, March 2.

Last July we said we would be reminding voters regarding the four Selectboard members who voted in favor of having Main Street Arts remove the set and technical equipment brought into the Bellows Falls Opera House for its postponed production of Cabaret. We were both involved in the production, and we remember very well how shortsighted and unfair this decision was.

The production was postponed two days before its planned opening on March 13 last year because of the pandemic restrictions. There have been no live events that would have otherwise used the stage since, and the movie program was not impacted by the set remaining in place.

In the summer, then–Town Manager Chuck Wise requested that MSA clear out. MSA appealed to the Selectboard, based on not wanting to lose its ability to simply pick up the show where it had been left off. MSA felt that this would severely hurt the organization's ability to bring back the show at all.

The issue came to a vote. Selectboard member Susan Hammond (not up for re-election) strongly supported and voted in favor of MSA keeping its set and equipment in place. The other four board members did not. They held that the Town Hall is not a “storage facility” and MSA's show would not be an exception. The organization complied, and everything was removed.

Three of those board members who voted against MSA's appeal are now up for re-election. We feel their opponents Rick Cowan, Bonnie North, and Elijah Zimmer have demonstrated a keen appreciation of the arts and how they fit into what makes small towns thrive, economically and culturally.

To support this concept, we refer the reader to a book by Dar Williams, What I Found in a Thousand Towns. A singer/songwriter, she was the first one to perform on the Opera House stage after it was reopened in 2006. She returned for a more recent concert the spring before the pandemic.

Her book is not only a travelogue, but a sociological study as well. She argues that coffee shops, bookstores, shared recreational spaces, and a strong arts presence are vital to a thriving community and to the cultural and economic vitality of the town.

We strongly believe that a vote for these candidates would be a positive step in moving the town forward, especially as we contend with a post-pandemic comeback.

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