The MySpace bulletin boards are abuzz today with word that artist Marc
Arevalo's FotoSeptiembre exhibit at Joe Blue's, a bar in the Blue Star
Arts Complex, was cancelled because owner Joey Villarreal objected to
the content of the photographs. Arevalo said Villarreal told him that
he was afraid the images, some of which feature Arevalos's boyfriend
Ryan Whittington in Victorian-style makeup and costume, would encourage
a gay clientele -- drag queens in particular.
"What upset me more was what he said, that 'I don't want those kind of
people hanging around here,'" said Arevalo.
At least two MySpace bulletins circulated today with similar versions
of the event, which took place the afternoon of September 7, not long
before the show was scheduled to open along with dozens of other First
Friday exhibits. "[Joey] tells Marc, 'I don't want these images hanging
in my bar ... they look like drag queens and I don't want to encourage
that kind of clientele in my bar,'" read a post from artist and curator Lili Pena Dyer, who was standing with Arevalo when Villarreal confronted him.
Villarreal says it's all a misunderstanding, that he's simply trying to
run a bar that appeals to a wide range of customers rather than a
specific niche. "I don't choose to do 'sports bar.' I don't choose to
do Country & Western bar.'" Arevalo's work he said, "might give
an impression that we cater mostly to homosexuals."
Alicia Spence Alvarez, marketing director for parent company Joey's
Inc., said that the issue is really about the need to show
non-controversial work in a commercial setting. "In general it's got to
appeal to everybody," she said.
The show was curated by artist Dayna DeHoyos, who runs Stella
Haus in the Blue Star complex (although, she emphasized, the Joe Blue's
agreement is separate from her gallery). DeHoyos appears in some of the
photographs with Whittington, and she said, she thought they fit the
criteria specified by Joe Blue's. "My guidelines were, nothing
pornographic, nothing vulgar, nothing sexual, nothing inappropriate for
children," said DeHoyos, who wasn't present when Villarreal objected to
the installation. "I felt I followed all the guidelines, and I feel
badly for Marc." But she said, it's Villarreal's establishment. "All I
could do is respect the owner's wishes."
Alvarez insists that Villarreal is not opposed to an LGBT clientele.
"It's not that he doesn't want gay people to come in," she said.
"That's not it at all."
A good thing, since as Arevalo and Whittington point out, Villarreal's
establishments -- Joey's on North St. Mary's, and Joe Blue's and Blue
Star Brewery -- are located in areas frequented by artists, many of
whom are gay, lesbian, bi, or transgendered. The Blue Star Arts Complex
was co-founded by Hap Veltman, one of downtown's most-revered
visionaries -- and a gay man.
"If I didn't like that, I wouldn't be in this area," said Villarreal.
"I want anybody to come in. I don't care what your sexual preference
Did he object to the images because they might encourage cross-dressers
"I might have said that," said Villarreal, "but that's not what I
really wanted to say."
Unfortunately, it's what Arevalo says he heard. "So fine, he can't have
our money, either."