Jaimie Warren proposes to create a workshop series in which local LGBTQ high school students and their straight allies will tackle creative challenges with professional guidance. Students will work with a range of Kansas City artists, performers and arts professionals to learn specialized skills, and then put them to the test in the style of a “reality show” similar to RuPaul’s Drag Race. This opportunity will connect young creatives with each other and with adult mentors, advocate for queer youth, and foster new skills and confidence in an at-risk community.
Warren defines drag as an extravagant theatrical character that any individual creates to express her/ himself.
KC Drag University will serve as a crash course for 12-20 high school applicants. The application process will be open to any gender of LGBTQ youth and straight allies, and KCDU will partner with organizations that provide advocacy and services for them, such as EQUAL, LIKEME Lighthouse, and KC Passages. Warren and up to three artist volunteers will lead the design and construction of a space where a series of workshops and competitions will take place. A total of 12 mini-challenges and 12 main challenges will test the students’ skills, ranging from garment construction, make-up, hair and styling, to improvisational work, runway walks, choreography and acting.
All of these challenges will test the students’ ability to express their personality and individuality, while also developing necessary life skills, such as working with limited time and budgets, and responding to unconventional materials. Each challenge will have specially selected judges, who will use constructive criticism to push the contestants to express themselves through their artistry, character representation and public persona. KC Drag University will encourage and reward the use of positive working skills such as team leadership, learning and employing new technical skills, competent artistic direction, resourcefulness and overall creative expression. Examples of challenges include: “Gone with the Window”: making an outfit for the “Oscars” out of window drapes; “Are you Afraid of the Dark”: high fashion in low lighting; and “KC Drag U Hair Ball”: creating a hair masterpiece.
Warren will invite a wide array of guest artists and judges to give valuable demonstrations, artist talks, and critiques. These will include actors, directors, writers, choreographers, performers, visual artists, make-up and hair stylists, arts professionals, curators, and clothing and costume designers.
Though this will be a somewhat competitive process, the students will never be voted off. Each class will always include two challenges, a lecture and demo, a work period, a final display and judging/critique, and the final two students will always “lip synch for their lives”. The classes will culminate with a final challenge, which will happen in front of a live audience. The presentation will include a series of videos, a runway show, a display of their creations, a world premiere of their collaborative music video, and the final “lip synch for their lives”. The contestants will be judged just as RuPaul herself would judge: through their charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent. It is never about looks – it is all about confidence, attitude, a great sense of humor and personal expression.
Warren intends that this project would be the first run of an ongoing series of KC Drag University workshops. The students will leave with a vast array of new skills, and a diverse portfolio of new work. This project will be empowering, encourage individuality, exercise the collaborative nature of the Kansas City arts community, and build lasting and fruitful relationships.
Jaimie Warren is a photographer and performance artist living in Kansas City, MO. She has had her first solo artist monograph published by Aperture (New York, NY) in 2008, and her work is featured in the Rizzoli publication “SHOOT: Photography of the Moment” featuring 26 photographers including Nan Goldin, Juergen Teller and Wolfgang Tillmans, which was released at the New Museum in New York in 2009. Warren has exhibited at Smith-Stewart and Steven Kasher, New York; David Castillo, Miami; Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art, Atlanta; Max Wigram, London; Showroom for Media and Moving Art, Rotterdam, NL; Getsumin, Osaka; Beida University, Beijing; Colette, Paris, with solo exhibitions at The Hole, New York, and White Flag Projects, St. Louis, and solo museum exhibitions at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and the Miami Dade College Museum of Art & Design. Her photography has been published in dozens of national and international publications. Warren is a recipient of the Lighton International Artist Exchange Program grant, the Rocket Grants award funded by the Charlotte Street Foundation, the Spencer Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and a United States Presidential Scholars Program Teacher Recognition Award.
Warren is Co-Creator/Co-Director of the faux public access television show “Whoop Dee Doo”. Whoop Dee Doo is a non-profit faux public access television show that is based in Kansas City, MO and is lead by approximately twenty Kansas City-based artists and volunteers. Whoop Dee Doo hosts live, free shows and workshops with the community and under-served youth groups, both locally and nationally. Whoop Dee Doo has created commissioned projects for organizations including the Smart Museum (Chicago), Deitch Projects (New York), The Kemper Museum for Contemporary Art (Kansas City), Loyal Gallery (Sweden), the Time-Based Arts Festival/Portland Institute of Contemporary Art (Portland, OR), the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Philadelphia, PA), Luminaria (San Antonio, TX), City Arts/Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD), and Miami Dade College and LegalArt (Miami, FL).
Whoop Dee Doo has worked with several youth programs including Urgent, Inc. Rites of Passage Program (Miami, FL), Operation Breakthrough (Kansas City), the Boys & Girls Club (Kansas City), Big Brother/Big Sister (Kansas City), Girls, Inc. (Omaha, NE), Experimental Station’s Blackstone Bicycle youth Program (Chicago, IL), as well as college interns at the University of Central Missouri, Pacific Northwest College of Art, the Kansas City Art Institute, the University of Chicago, Rockhurst University, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Warren has additionally taught workshops outside of the context of Whoop Dee Doo at Caldera Arts Camp in Sisters, OR, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and local Kansas City high schools.