GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A few weeks out from Project 1 by ArtPrize, the public art event in Grand Rapids is sparking controversy and conversation, just like the competition.
Part of Project 1 will be art events, including one on the first day by Drag Syndrome. The London-based group advertises itself as “the world’s first drag troop featuring highly addictive drag queens and kings with Down’s Syndrome!”
Drag Syndrome has become popular in Europe. During Project 1, the members will perform with three local drag artists who have various disabilities.
“We sought them out because they are at the very highest level of disability drag,” said event organizer Jill Vyn of DisArt, a Grand Rapids organization that connects art and people with disabilities.
“The work that we do is really rooted in raising the visibility, the voice and value of the disability community,” Vyn said.
“Drag has never only been about sexuality,” DisArt co-founder Christopher Smit said. “Drag is about gender performance, drag is about expression. Drag is also about ridding the culture of damaging stereotypes.
“People with Down syndrome or any disabled person has at their disposal multiple art forms that they look for to get out into the world their version of life and their own identity. So judging these people only on their Down syndrome, that’s the same thing as judging someone from race,” he continued.
Smit said controversy happens when truth gets told and that the truth they are trying to tell is that disability is not something to run away and hide from.
“There is some mystery, there is some potential controversy, but in the end we hope this is an invitation for our community to move forward,” Vyn said.
“We recognize that not everyone is going to love this show, not everyone is going to think it’s for them. And that’s OK,” Vyn said.
The show is Sept. 7 at 7 p.m.