Advance Notice: Briefs

DisArt drag show finds new Grand Rapids venue

By: - September 3, 2019 10:33 am

the Tanglefoot, Grand Rapids | Nick Manes

Updated, 11:40 a.m., with announcement of filing a civil rights complaint

DisArt, a Grand Rapids-based Disability Arts organization, announced it will hold the Disability Drag Show on Saturday at the Wealthy Theatre in the city.

Peter Meijer

Drag Syndrome, an acclaimed United Kingdom-based group of people with Down Syndrome who perform in drag, was banned from performing at the Tanglefoot, a Grand Rapids art space owned by Peter Meijer. Meijer, who’s seeking the GOP nomination for Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, expressed concern about the “exploitation” of performers.

“We are thrilled to see Grand Rapids join the international community to rally around these artists. The outpouring of support and love has truly been fantastic, and we are so very grateful to Wealthy Theatre for opening their doors to Horroro Shebang, Justin Bond, and Gaia Callas for the first U.S. performance of Drag Syndrome.” Said Daniel Vias, Drag Syndrome creative director.

Disart announced that the Wealthy Theatre has made a commitment to making this an accessible performance by removing standard stadium seating in the front of house, and creating a space for up to 60 accessible seats. The show is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday.

DisArt will still have a presence at Tanglefoot as a part of Project 1 by ArtPrize. On Sept. 28 and 29, DisArt and its collaborator’s present Voices, an immersive, multimedia project displayed and interacted with throughout the Tanglefoot site.

“The venue that is being built at Tanglefoot is a magnificent work of art, a testament to inclusiveness for all. Peter Meijer’s decision to bar three internationally acclaimed artists based on their disability status does not, in any way implicate or diminish the incredible work still happening at the venue,” said Christopher Smit, DisArt co-director. “Peter Meijer’s decision is his alone, as are the ramifications. The work of the other artists and collaborators is their achievement that should be allowed to proceed with full community support.”

On Monday, DisArt and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced they will file a formal discrimination complaint against Meijer with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.*

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.