Some of the more than 30 sponsors of Columbus’ Fashion Meets Music Festival are reconsidering their involvement in August’s inaugural fest, which is set to feature R&B artist R. Kelly.
In 2002, R. Kelly, whose full name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, was indicted in Chicago on soliciting a minor for child pornography, seven counts of producing child pornography and seven counts of videotaping the acts. The case stemmed from a videotape — which was sent anonymously to the Chicago Sun-Times in 2001 — of Kelly allegedly having sex and performing sexual acts with an underage girl. He was arrested in Davenport, Fla. after the indictment was handed down and was released after paying the $75,000 bail.
The trial was delayed multiple times. On June 14, 2008, however, a Chicago jury found Kelly not guilty on all counts.
But now, those same charges are causing sponsors and bands to reconsider participating in the festival.
In an email to The Lantern, marketing coordinator Richelle McCuen of Mills James Creative Media, a current sponsor of the festival, said that president Ken Mills and the company “recognize the situation, and we’re reviewing our involvement.”
The Columbus Dispatch reported Thursday that Columbus radio station WCBE (90.5 FM) is also having second thoughts about its FMMF sponsorship. The station’s general manager, Dan Mushalko, said he would like to see “public dialogue” about sexual assault prevention, but R. Kelly’s appearance at FMMF “just won’t fly,” he told TheDispatch.
However, Colin Garchar, owner of The Vape Spot at 1456 Bethel Rd., remains adamant in his business’ sponsorship of FMMF.
“I think it’s ridiculous people are acting this way,” Garchar said Thursday. “Tell me you’ve never made out with a girl to an R. Kelly song or listened to him after all that stuff (Kelly’s legal trouble) happened. You’d be a liar to say no.”
FMMF announced Kelly as the headliner along with Columbus-based band O.A.R. on June 25. He is set to perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 29 at Nationwide Arena.
On Tuesday, Saintseneca, an indie-rock band based in Columbus, announced on its website that the group was canceling its performance at FMMF, writing, “We feel (R. Kelly’s) selection as a performer ignores his very serious allegations of sexual violence and assault. We feel it is an affront to all survivors.”
Saintseneca’s cancellation comes about a month after Columbus-based rock duo Damn the Witch Siren posted a Facebook a plea for FMMF to reconsider its choice of Kelly as the festival’s headliner. The duo later announced its official withdrawal from the festival on July 3 via Facebook.
According to a 2013 piece by the “Village Voice,” Kelly holds an extensive history of legal trouble and has also paid off dozens of lawsuits filed by underage girls claiming statutory rape.
Although he said he finds the controversy ridiculous, Garchar also said he wasn’t a fan of R. Kelly’s music, and his continued support of the festival is in the name of his brother, Kyle Garchar, who is the director of digital communications for FMMF and had a part in Kelly’s booking for the festival.
“My little brother singlehandedly helped put this festival together, and I want to support him,” Garchar said. “The festival is unique to Columbus and is unique in its way of bringing smaller acts and bigger acts together in the same venue.”