The theater building at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington D.C. was to be officially named in a ceremony tonight after Dave Chappelle, one of the school’s most famous graduates. The naming was in consideration of Chappelle’s support of the school after he and his friends raised the most money for the building.
Yet, according to Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin and other reports at the ceremony tonight, the comedian announced he would not place his name on the theater after all. Instead he decided it shall be called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression.
He then went on to speak about how his work has been characterized and analyzed.
“I saw in the newspaper that a man who was dressed in women’s clothing threw a pie at the Mona Lisa and tried to deface it. And it made me laugh and I thought, ‘It’s like The Closer.’ “
Chappelle said The Closer was unfairly portrayed in the press.
“You cannot report on an artist’s work and remove artistic nuance,” he contended.
The comedian went on to say, “When you say I can’t say something, the more urgent is it for me to say it. It has nothing to do with what you are saying I can’t say. It has everything to do with my freedom of artistic expression.”
Chappelle has been the center of controversy after comments in his Netflix special last year were perceived as transphobic. In a visit to Duke Ellington School of the Arts in November, he was even confronted by students over it.