Venus DeMars’ Facebook profile photo says it all: a portrait of the Minneapolis-based transgender singer/songwriter/bandleader/painter, covered by a placard that reads, “Not An Artist.”
When we last checked in with DeMars and her wife, Lynette, a published poet and English professor at Normandale Community College, the couple was embroiled in an aggressive tax audit by the State Of Minnesota over their status as professional artists. The story outraged readers and was picked up by several media outlets, including Bitch magazine, Tech Dirt, Boing Boing, and Crooked Timber, but as it turns out the fight is just beginning – and the couple is now determined to see it through in the name of all artists.
“Through donations, which we are extremely grateful for, we were able to hire a lawyer, for $6,000,” said DeMars. “Our lawyer got their verbal final decision, and it was that I am denied classification as a working artist, and will be assessed an amount plus penalties for three or four or possibly more years, we’ve yet to find out exactly. It seems that no significant changes have been made in their argument since the last [Minnpost] article.
“So, because of their verbal final determination against me, despite our legal representation at the final meeting, and the counter arguments our lawyer laid out for them during that final meeting, I’m now moving into the appeals process, which will cost another $6,000 in legal fees.
“While we wait for the written decision, I’m presently in the process of preparing general documentation for the appeals process. It’s a massive amount of work. It includes contacting as many people as possible who I’ve worked with over my career, and asking them to write a validation letter of the professional work I’ve done.”
For emotional and financial support, a fundraising event and performance will be held July 20 at the Triple Rock Social Club, with DeMars’s glam rock institution All The Pretty Horses, local rockers Penny Royal, Trailer Trash leader Nate Dungan, a deejay and a silent auction organized by Artists In Storefronts founder Joan Vorderbruggen and Cult Status Gallery’s Erin Sayer.
The event will coincide with the release of “White Horses: A Tribute to the Music of Venus DeMars,” a collection of newly recorded covers of DeMars’ music by local and national bands.
“I’m amazed by how many people have stepped forward to help us pay for the lawyer,” said Reini-Grandell, who is in the process of documenting for the state how, exactly, she has worked as a published poet.
“I am totally overwhelmed by the sense of community support we are experiencing throughout this, from everyone except the Minnesota Department of Revenue, of course. Our lawyer was very surprised that he was not able to get the Minnesota Department of Revenue to budge at our last meeting because he thinks Venus has an incredibly strong case.
“They still want more documentation from me, and they’re still not about to drop it. This has been emotionally devastating for both of us. It has created a significant drop off in our artistic activity and energy for participating in the business of art.
“The Minnesota Department of Revenue seems to be saying that we can’t write off any of our art expenses. But this becomes a real problem when we get grants, as both of us have done, for projects to do specific things that have specific projected expenses.”