ArtPrize Statement on DisArt’s Disability Drag Show and Drag Syndrome

Last week ArtPrize announced the community events scheduled to take place during Project 1 on September 7 through October 27. There are a multitude of performances, talks, and celebrations happening across Project 1 locations around Grand Rapids, but one event in particular has generated a lot of questions and even some controversy. 

Drag Syndrome is part of a UK-based experimental dance company established in 2010 that invites audiences to experience drag and disability together, creating a new form of Disability performance. The artists participating in Drag Syndrome are adults who have chosen this as their form of artistic expression and have been touring Europe for the last year. Drag Syndrome has captured attention and accolades from audiences and art critics alike, most recently at Tate Modern.

This group was invited and funded by DisArt, an arts organization based in Grand Rapids that advocates for disabled contemporary artists, to be a part of the community event schedule taking place during Project 1 to recognize artists with disabilities. Over the years, DisArt’s contributions to ArtPrize have included work by acclaimed artists both within Grand Rapids and internationally. 

Alongside a great deal of positive response, the news of Drag Syndrome’s participation has recently motivated groups to coordinate a campaign of communications calling for their performance to be canceled.

The ArtPrize organization has always supported free artistic expression by all participants and has not denied or screened individuals. Consistent with this, we believe it would be inappropriate to limit the participation of performers who have Down syndrome.

We are excited to host the many diverse artists and performers from the community participating concurrently with Project 1, and appreciate the value DisArt brings to the event alongside the other artists and collaborative groups who have enriched the creative community of Grand Rapids over the last ten years.

DisArt has more information about Drag Syndrome as well as helpful information that addresses the concerns that have arisen around this event. We encourage you to visit their Facebook page.

UPDATE (8/23/19): The property owner of the Tanglefoot Building, where Disability Drag Show was set to take place, has declined to host the performance. DisArt is working to secure a new venue. ArtPrize will provide updates when a new location is set.