A billionaire’s son, Michigan Republican Congressional candidate, Peter Meijer, found himself at the center of BIG OLE controversy after banning a drag performers with Down syndrome from performing in an arts and cultural center he owns.
We’ve reported on the fab a London-based, Drag Syndrome. They were scheduled to perform next week on the opening night of Project 1, a series of public art commissions in Grand Rapids, Michigan, connected to the city’s ArtPrize festival. The event was canceled after Meijer learned of Drag Syndrome’s inclusion.
Meijer wrote in a letter to ArtPrize’s executive director,
“The differently abled are among the most special souls in our community, and I believe they, like children and other vulnerable populations, should be protected.”
“It didn’t matter that these Artists have long-standing, successful, internationally acclaimed careers. It didn’t matter that the artists are also accomplished actors and filmmakers, painters, dancers, singers and most important of all, human beings. None of that mattered in the decision to exclude their performance. All that mattered was their disability…. Exclusion is discrimination, it is self-preservation, it is exploitation for political gain. It is not protection.”
Meijer’s billionaire Dad runs a supermarket chain with the family’s surname and is worth over $8 billion, with more than 200 stores across the Midwest. Meijer announced his candidacy for congress in a YouTube video last month.
Meijer told artnet News in an email,
“It has been a frustrating week—I’ve been called a bigot, an ableist, a homophobe, a transphobe, and more…”
explaining that he believes that the “underlying ethical concern […] regarding the confluence of charged cultural performance and developmental disability and the potential for exploitation in actuality or perception” has largely gone unaddressed by opponents.
Meijer says he consulted with “parents of the differently-abled” and “members of the LGBTQ and artist community” before making his decision.
“The overwhelming view of members of the local disability advocacy community and parents of children—adult and minor—with Down syndrome was that this performance did not further their goals for greater inclusion and belonging, and risked harkening back to spectacles that put individuals with disability on display.”
The Curiosity Theatre was supposed to perform its play Tiny Beautiful Things as part of the event, but has now pulled out. Member Jessie Congleton said,
“We didn’t want to perform on the same stage where someone else had the mic taken away from them.”
Despite being barred from Meijer’s building, DisArt still plans to mount Drag Syndrome’s performance on the 7th anyway and are in the process of getting a new space. (*see below)
Btw, Peter, if you think all drag queens aren’t after a spectacle when performing, you are missing the point, hunty.
UPDATE: After this was posted on WOW’s Facebook page, the response has been 100% in favor of Drag Syndrome –natch. Bradley Haas posted this comment,
“We want to assure everyone that the show in Grand Rapids IS and WILL still be happening on September 7. The location is at Wealthy Theatre and tickets were gone in just hours.!
Follow the event here, and please know that these entertainers will be taken care of and given an amazing experience of their first time in the States
Join us for the Disability Drag Show featuring the US premier performance by the London-based avant-garde drag troupe Drag Syndrome. The show will also feature local Disabled drag artists, facilitated by the Grand Rapids-based Beauty Beyond Drag Productions.
Local entertainers performing are Siren, The Lady Dior, and B.R.I.T.!
The event will be live streamed for those unable to attend in person.”
These performers are going to blow the roof off and the love in that room will be OFF THE CHARTS.
10s across the board!!
(Photos, Peter Meijer for Congress, Drag Syndrme; via artnet News)