Editorial: Local artists, national elections

The job of a newspaper is neither to reflect on the past nor to predict the future – but, instead, to report the present. Art, on the other hand, is timeless, “news that stays news,” as the poet Ezra Pound memorably framed it.

So it is a welcome relief – in the midst of this all-too-in-the-moment, heated election season – that the eighth annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio & Gallery Tour happens this weekend. Organized by the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community (RAAC), the tour offers what Pound’s contemporary and fellow poet, T.S. Eliot, called a “still point” in time’s quick passage:

What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened….

And the vote we never cast.

That last line never appears in Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” but in the poem’s spirit of “perpetual possibility,” it could have! The poem was supposedly inspired by Beethoven’s string quartets. Like any music, their beauty may be timeless but, paradoxically, can be revealed only by being played through the passage of time.

So it is fitting that the weekend immediately after the election – at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11 – Rappahannock’s own Castleton in Performance series presents the Shakespeare Sonnet Song Cycle (composed by jazz pianist Burnett Thompson).

When you cast your votes next Tuesday, maybe Rappahannock’s visual arts and music will provide important context. As any proverbial “starving artist” will attest, art should never be about the money. Politics shouldn’t be either. Particularly big money from anonymous donors whose agendas are hidden. Please don’t let your vote be bought.

Instead, like an artist, be inspired as if on a quest for truth and beauty. And so beware of candidates who aren’t willing to invest in the long-term health of this beautiful planet, disdain scientific facts and, Taliban-like, want to usher in a new Dark Ages, filtering the world’s wonderful complexities through a simplistic, uncompromising ideological filter, even policing women’s bodies.

You don’t want to end up, in the fullness of time, regretting the vote you cast on that first Tuesday in November back in 2012.

Walter Nicklin