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DisArt, ACLU of Michigan to File Formal Complaint of Discrimination against Peter Meijer

September 3, 2019

DisArt, ACLU of Michigan to File Formal Complaint of Discrimination against Peter Meijer, Announce Additional Disability Drag Show Performance and New Series of Events to Support Community Conversations during Project 1 by ArtPrize.

DisArt plans to keep remaining programming at Tanglefoot and offers full support to all the Artists and Collaborators working towards Project 1’s goal “to show how art can help transform cities into places where we all belong.”

(Grand Rapids, Michigan: September 3, 2019) DisArt, the Grand Rapids based Disability Arts organization, at a press conference in conjunction with the ACLU, announced a formal complaint of discrimination would be filed with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. The complaint is in response to Peter Meijer’s decision to ban three individual artists from performing on his property based on their Disability status.

“The action taken by Peter Meijer in canceling the performance of Drag syndrome raises issues of both disability and sex discrimination. Mr. Meijer is denying performers with Down syndrome the opportunity to perform because he has made the faulty assumption that these performers lack the ability to understand and to consent to perform, due to their Down syndrome.” Said Jay Kaplan, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Michigan. “Despite information provided to Mr. Meijer that clearly indicates otherwise, he has chosen to single out these performers because of their diagnosis.”

At this morning’s press conference held at the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, DisArt Co-Directors Chris Smit and Jill Vyn shared a three part plan intended to:

  • Prevent the current and potential future attempts at censorship of Disabled Artists.
  • Support the Artists and collaborators of Project 1 by ArtPrize.
  • Facilitate an ongoing community conversation around issues of disability, identity, sexuality, exploitation and discrimination.

Prevent Current and Potential Future Attempts at Censorship of Disabled Artists.

In addition to the civil rights complaint to set a precedent that will prevent future attempts to censor Disabled Artists, DisArt has addressed the current situation by relocating the excluded performance to Wealthy Theatre.

“The community response to Drag Syndrome and the Disability Drag Show has been incredible, We’re excited to announce that within hours of announcing the new venue, the show was sold out, prompting us to add a second performance on the following night, Sunday September 8.” Said Jill Vyn.

DisArt will continue to use live streaming, with captions, as part of their production standard for those unable or unwilling to come to the show in person. Live-stream information will be shared to the DisArt Facebook and Instagram pages. Tickets for the second Disability Drag Show performance are also free, but need to be reserved online. Reservations start at 10am Wednesday September 4th. See the DisArt Facebook or Instagram pages for the link to reserve.

Support the Artists and Collaborators of Project 1 by ArtPrize

In this morning’s conference, Smit and Vyn made clear their position of support for the Artists and artwork still performing at the Tanglefoot venue and other Project 1 Venues.

“We do not believe that boycotting or protesting artists is a productive way to act against the discrimination of artists.” Said Vyn “Instead, DisArt will continue with its performance and installation Voices on September 28 & 29 at the Tanglefoot site. In addition, we offer our full support to the Artists who are allowed to perform, as well as the Artists Paul Amenta and Ted Lott who built, from the ground up, an artwork and venue that specifically addresses issues of accessibility.”

“We also applaud ArtPrize for creating the Project 1: Crossed Lines Exhibition with the artistic focus of showing “how art can help transform cities into places where we all belong.” DisArt encourages the public to invest in this new, exciting rendition of our city’s favorite art Festival”

Facilitate an Ongoing Community Conversation Around Issues of Disability, Identity, Sexuality, Exploitation and Discrimination

To acknowledge the need for a safe space for the rich and difficult conversation our community is having around issues of disability, identity, sexuality, exploitation and discrimination, Vyn and Smit announced a three part series of Community Conversation Events.

“We need to amplify the voice of the Down syndrome community, the LGBTQ community, the Drag community, the Disabled community, as well as include the voices of dissent in a meaningful and productive way.” Said Smit, “we must keep a safe space open for the conversations our community is having around these issues.”

The following events are scheduled to take place at Little Space Studio located at 111 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Disability Drag and the LGBTQ Community, September 6, 4 – 5:30pm

Includes members of Drag Syndrome, Beauty Beyond Drag Productions, Grand Rapids Drag community members, and LGBTQ community leaders for an open discussion about the issues regarding disability, drag, sexuality, and identity in the arts. Full panel listing TBA.

Disability Agency and Sexuality, September 13, 4 – 5:30pm

Join DisArt, local leaders from the Down syndrome community, and other community voices for an open discussion about issues regarding disability, sexuality, exploitation and the question of personal agency. Panelists include Nate Clark, Program Director, Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan, Brad Rivard, President-Board of Directors, Down Syndrome Association of West

Michigan, Reverend Dr. Joan VanDessel, First United Methodist Church, Dawn Jenkins, Parent Advocate and Other Community Members

Disability Arts and Civil Rights, September 20, 4 – 5:30pm

Join DisArt, local and national Disability rights activists, artists, and advocates for an open discussion about issues of art, censorship, free speech, and the rights of Disabled people. Full panel listing TBA

Disability Drag Show, Presented by DisArt

Free Event
September 7, 2019 7:00 PM
Wealthy Theatre 1130 Wealthy St SE,
Grand Rapids, MI 49506


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For interviews, quotes, or comments:

DisArt Contact

Christopher Smit (
Jill Vyn (

DisArt Media Contacts

Grand Rapids + Michigan: Todd Herring (
New York: Lainya Magaña (