The Columbia Museum of Art hosted a drag bingo event on St. Patrick’s Day with local drag queen Patti O’Furniture emceeing the sold-out event.
The museum had two exhibitions on display during the event, one for French sculptor Auguste Rodin and another for artist Anila Quayyum Agha. Whether guests came for the bingo, the art or the drag, they enjoyed a night of bingo filled with a costume contest and lots of laughs.
“You know, we’re not a big city, but to have events like this, where, I mean, there were 18-year-old boys and 80-year-old women in the crowd,” O’Furniture said. “Different sexual orientations, gender identities, (and) everybody was having a good time. And so, if it can bring people together, then yes, we need more events like this.”
Fiancés Zach Wankowski and Van Hobbs are fans of drag, the occasional game of bingo and unwinding with friends on a weeknight.
“It represents our community, it helps raise money and awareness for the museum, and the arts,” Wankowski said. “I grew up in Columbia, and I know when I was growing up here, there wasn’t a whole lot of the gay community that was active and visible. And that has definitely changed over the past few years, which I love to see.”
Ticket sales went towards funding the Columbia Museum of Art. Bingo prizes included items and gift cards from local businesses, and many guests were happy to support the museum and those businesses.
“(The) Columbia Museum of Art is a beautiful venue, it’s a great place to just have a gay ole time,” Hobbs said. “It reminded me of the fact that I need to come and see the new exhibit, but the museum is beautiful.”
O’Furniture works regularly with the Columbia Museum of Art, whether it’s for bingo night or a gallery tour. She said she loves to bring the worlds of drag and art together.
“Drag, just like any painting or sculpture or other work in the museum, it's all subjective,” O’Furniture said. “I firmly understand that not everybody gets my schtick, and not everybody might find the appeal of a seven-foot-tall clown in a gown ... that's why I love celebrating all of the different elements within the drag community.”
Dana Witkoski is the engagement specialist at the museum who planned the event. She said she doesn’t know of any other museums in Columbia hosting events like drag bingo.
One of the museum’s core values is to "be community centered, but another one is to be playful ... for so long, museums have to struggle with this idea that they are these cold, sterile spaces,” Witkoski said. “Art is vibrant and playful, and we want to inject that kind of life into our programming.”
O’Furniture is a supporter of the Columbia Museum of Art because, like Witkoski said, it fights the stereotype of a cold, stuffy museum and aims to be warm and inviting to all.
“I love the power that I've been given to bring people together, and it sort of meshes beautifully with the way the museum of art has laid out their collection of putting different art together, around a similar theme,” O’Furniture said.