Back on August 16th I informed you of a London-based group which advertises itself as “the world’s first drag troop featuring highly addictive drag queens and kings with Down’s Syndrome!”.  This group was scheduled to perform with three Grand Rapids area drag artists who have various disabilities on September 7th as part of the new Project 1 by ArtPrize.

Now MLive is reporting that the owner of the venue where they were to perform pulled out of the performance due to “concerns”.

The owner of the building where the performance was to occur at is Peter Meijer.  Mr. Meijer is the grandson of the late grocery store magnate Fred Meijer and one of the challengers for Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District.  The 3rd Congressional District seat is currently held by Justin Amash.

According to ArtPrize and DisArt leaders Peter Meijer sent them a letter on August 19th that stated:

The differently disabled are among the most special souls in our community, and I believe they, like children and other vulnerable populations, should be protected...Artistic expression is inherently political, and in making this decision I approached the issue from a content neutral basis. Setting aside the content, the involvement of individuals whose ability to act of their own volition is unclear raises serious ethical concerns that I cannot reconcile...I cannot know, and neither can an audience, whether the individuals performing for Drag Syndrome are giving, or are in a position to give, their full and informed consent

Leaders with DisArt project in a statement said they were:

deeply saddened, angered and appalled...Exclusion is discrimination, it is self-preservation, it is exploitation for political gain. It is not protection...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

Peter Meijer replies by saying he acted out of:

genuine ethical concern about inserting the developmentally disabled into the middle of a culture war. I don’t care if the chance they are being exploited for an activist agenda is only one in a million- any risk is too high for me to accept.

ArtPrize leaders are currently looking for another venue.

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