As drag takes one hit after another on the national stage, a collective in San Francisco seeks to preserve and expand the art form with an official drag school.
The Stud Collective is one of the United States’ oldest LGBTQ+ clubs and drag performance spaces. With almost 60 years of history behind it, the collective has decided to start a school to teach the history and legacy of drag while encouraging new artists to find their personal style.
Those who enroll must be 21 years or older, and drag queens, kings and nonbinary performers are all welcome. The school, which will start classes in 2024, will be funded in part by an experimental arts organization, CounterPulse.
The Stud Collective’s history has seen ups and downs as drag has transformed from an art form on the margins of society to a pinnacle of queer nightlife and expression. Nate Allbee, a Stud Collective member, told the San Francisco Chronicle “We believe and we want to make sure that the world knows that drag is a folk art that has been around for all time. As long as recorded history, as far back as the Phoenicians, there is a history of drag.”
Students will learn the history of drag as well as how to create their own look using costume, padding, and makeup. They’ll hone their craft with character work and lip-syncing techniques, and will learn how to self-market to get gigs and make money performing.
The Studs Collective provides the perfect space and resources for a drag course to unfold, as it has played a major role in the LGBTQ+ community for years. In their original San Francisco location, the collective hosted famous drag shows until a rent increase threatened the business. But as a cherished community business, the Studs launched a successful crowdfunding campaign and was rebirthed as a worker-owned cooperative in a new location.
Today, Studs is still a cooperative, but their bar was forced to close due the pandemic in 2020. Now almost four years later, they’re relocating to a bigger location in the city’s South of Market area. Since the closure of the collective’s last location, it has been functioning as an organization participating in collaborations with other businesses, hosting a podcast and events for the San Fran community.
The work isn’t done yet! For the school to be a success, Studs needs to complete its new crowdfunding campaign that will go towards renovations in their new space. Interested in donating? Learn more here.