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DisArt Statement on Peter Meijer’s Decision to Exclude Disabled Artists

August 22, 2019

(Grand Rapids, Michigan) On August 19, Peter Meijer, a recently announced challenger to Justin Amash for Michigan’s third congressional seat, sent a letter to ArtPrize informing them that due to the disabilities of the performers in Drag Syndrome, a London, UK based avant-garde drag troupe, the show, which is also set to feature local disabled performers, must be excluded from the recently built artwork and performance venue built by Artists Paul Amenta and Ted Lott for the opening night of Project 1 by ArtPrize. The venue, Tanglefoot, is a building owned by Meijer, who had knowledge of, but until now, no involvement in the creative or artistic programming of the site. In response to the letter, DisArt issued the following statement.

“Today we were informed that Peter Meijer, the owner of Tanglefoot, the venue Drag Syndrome had been guaranteed for Project 1, made a decision that the Artists of Drag Syndrome would not be allowed to perform on September 7, because they have Down syndrome.

It didn’t matter that these Artists have long-standing, successful, internationally acclaimed careers. It didn’t matter that after founding Drag Syndrome, one of the original members was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth II. It didn’t matter that another performer has won a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. 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.

“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.”
-Peter Meijer

Exclusion is discrimination, it is self-preservation, it is exploitation for political gain. It is not protection.

We are deeply saddened, angered and appalled at the decision to exclude Drag Syndrome from a venue they were given, a venue that was built from the ground up by Artists Paul Amenta and Ted Lott who transformed a private, industrial, and inaccessible urban space into an accessible and inclusive public artwork and venue specifically for performances like Drag Syndrome.

For the past 50 years, in addition to the advocacy that brought the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law, a cultural movement has been taking place. Artists with disabilities have been working to raise the voice, visibility and value of all Disabled people. They work around the world, in every artistic medium and represent every form of disability.

While we are saddened to lose this artwork as the venue, THE SHOW WILL GO ON!

DisArt WILL protect the artists of Drag Syndrome by protecting their rights. There will be another venue announced soon, and on September 7th, as part of Project 1 by ArtPrize, Drag Syndrome will perform in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We hope you will be there to celebrate, to learn, to grow, and to build a stronger, more inclusive community for all.

Please visit disartnow.org to learn more, contact us, and show your support.”