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How The Arts Community Is Responding To HB2

Jan Grauer

A few days before a nearly sold out show in Greensboro, North Carolina Bruce Springsteen canceled in protest of House Bill 2. Cirque Du Soleil, the rock group Boston and Pearl Jam have also canceled shows in opposition the law.

WFAE’s Arts and Culture Reporter Sarah Delia has this rundown of some other reactions in the arts community. 

Since Bruce Springsteen announced his last-minute cancellation, Ringo Starr announced he won't be playing in June in Cary because of HB2.  Ani DiFranco has also cited HB2 as a reason for not playing a  festival in North Carolina this summer.

Eric Shiner is the Director of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg, he was scheduled to talk to a Master of Fine Arts class at UNC-Chapel Hill later this month. He said he regretted having to cancel but as a museum who represents an iconic gay artist, he felt it was necessary.

On the flip side, there are artists who say they don’t support HB2 but are still keeping their North Carolina tour dates. 

Brandi Carlile, a singer/songwriter who is openly gay saying she doesn’t want to punish her fans because of HB2. She’ll be in Wilkesboro and Greensboro in May. Mumford and Sons was in Charlotte last week, they said they’d be making a donation to an LGBT organization. Jimmy Buffett is still coming later in the month for a show in Raleigh and another in Charlotte (Buffett has stated he is against HB2). Cyndi Lauper will be in Raleigh in June and is donating profits to Equality NC.

There’s also musicians like Laura Grace Jane, the lead singer of the punk band Against Me. She’s a transgender woman and says they have a huge following in the LGBT community and to cancel would be a disservice. But she’s gotten some pushback from people who say that not boycotting the state is like crossing a picket line, they're scheduled to be in Durham in May.

"I think there is a lot of merit to the idea if you are an artist going there and you are going to play a show turning your show into an event that people can rally around and raise money that can do some good," she said. 

So that’s what they’re doing, they’ll be giving money from the show to Time Out Youth, an LGBT advocacy group. 

Then there are businesses who are speaking out who feel like they are being punished because of HB2 when they don't even support the legislation. Linda-Marie Barrett is the General Manager of the independent bookstore Malaprop’s in Asheville and she wrote an Op-Ed for the NY Times about how the boycott is hurting the store. Author Sherman Alexie was scheduled to give a talk there but canceled because of HB2. 

In Charlotte, Tom Gabbard the president and CEO of Blumenthal Performing Arts says he's worried about the public perception of Charlotte and that HB2 will be a negative mark on the city. He says he’s talked to dozens of artists who have thought about canceling shows in Charlotte because of HB2 or have questions about how people will be treated. The McColl Center For Art + Innovation and the Arts and Science Council have also come out with statements against HB2. 

"We have heard from quite a number of artists, people who are coming here in the next few weeks in fact. Calling us to find out how are my fans going to be treated if I have LGBT audiences? What are they going to face in your facility? In our case we are able to tell them we are a private non-profit, we do operate government facilities but as a private non-profit we can set our own rules," says Gabbard.

He added so far, they haven’t had any cancelations, but that many in the arts world—in and out of the state have eyes on Charlotte waiting to see what happens next.