A well-known Eugene actor and musician has begun performing again, after being identified as as a neo-Nazi last year by the Rose City Antifa.
A little over a year ago, Executive Director of The Shedd Institute Jim Ralph told Eugene Weekly that the institute of art would be cutting all ties with Evan McCarty to assure safety and inclusivity. McCarty had been revealed as the true identity of Byron De La Vandal — an internet pseudonym McCarty used to spread hate and post original pro-white nationalist music to YouTube and Instagram.
According to Ron Sticka, vice president of The Eugene Gleeman, McCarty joined the all-male choir group last September and has since sung with them at The Shedd on two separate occasions, most recently the Night of Vocal Arts on April 6.
University of Oregon graduate Cassidy Garcia was at The Shedd on April 6, when she recognized McCarty as he performed with The Gleeman.
“I was in disbelief and I was angry,” Garcia said. “It was such a prominent display of white male privilege of The Gleeman to feel comfortable enough to share ranks with a neo-Nazi without a care for the harm that his presence and inclusion could have on their audiences.”
Not everyone says McCarty’s return to the stage is a bad thing. Some say it is an opportunity for McCarty to rehabilitate within the art community.
“He told the group he regrets his poor decisions and is no longer involved in anything to do with the alt-right or white nationalism,” Sticka said. “Evan is sincere and should have a second chance to regain his dignity and self-esteem by further participation with the organization.”
In an interview with the Emerald, McCarty said he’s taken steps to make a genuine change in his life.
“I’m working every single day in order to grow as an individual,” McCarty said. “I would ask for forgiveness and understanding. I would be the first to say that I absolutely regret 100 percent of my previous conduct.”
McCarty was successfully sued this past December with two others for harassing Taylor Dumpson, the first Black woman to become student body president of American University in May 2017. According to the settlement agreement McCarty reached with Dumpson, he agreed to apologize, publicly denounce white supremacy, participate in counseling and to volunteer with local civil rights groups.
McCarty said that he specifically chose to pursue a settlement with Dumpson that would address the underlying bigotry and white nationalism at the center of the harassment. He claims to have sought a way to separate himself from his fellow defendants, one of whom is Andrew Anglin, a publisher with a well-known neo-Nazi website called The Daily Stormer.
“I've taken this to heart. I wanted to formally apologize. I want to engage on a personal level and I wanted to also educate myself,” McCarty said. “So I've been attending classes, seminars and workshops about the dynamics of racial and cultural diversity and the impact of intolerance and prejudice.”
In addition to formally apologizing to Dumpson, McCarty said he has also been volunteering with Blacks in Government, a nonprofit established in the ’70s to emphasize the need for African-Americans in public office, and working with the First Christian Church to help feed the unhoused. The Emerald was unable to reach Blacks in Government or the First Christian Church to confirm his volunteer work.
Ralph says that The Shedd was aware of McCarty performing with The Gleeman for a private event six months ago, as well as the Night of Vocal Arts on April 6. While Ralph maintains that The Shedd no longer has a professional relationship with McCarty, he also applauds The Gleeman’s commitment to helping McCarty gain a new perspective on life.
“We see no issue with such involvement so long as performers and audience members alike treat each other with respect, compassion and sensitivity,” Ralph said. “What we can and will continue to do is insist on integrity. That includes expecting people to treat each other, even those with whom we most disagree or who have behaved badly in the past, with grace, compassion and wisdom.”
McCarty says that he’s gone above and beyond the terms of his settlement to formally renounce his past beliefs. However, community members still remain divided on whether McCarty should be allowed to sing and act in town again.
Garcia worked with McCarty at The Shedd as venue assistants in summer 2017. She reports that his cold nature and abruptness often left her feeling uncomfortable. The Emerald spoke with two other people who shared similar experiences as Garcia had with McCarty.
“He acted on his hatred and intentionally brought harm to people whom he deemed unworthy of human rights,” Garcia said. “He should not get to now turn around and take up room in safe community spaces.”
Emelia Reed met McCarty in 2012 while doing theater at South Eugene High School. She describes him as being very involved in music and theater.
“We were in three shows together, and I would see him around school often,” Reed said. “He seemed to just be someone who kept more to themselves when he wasn’t performing.”
Like many others, Reed was surprised when she found out about McCarty’s online presence.
“I don’t think anyone would have guessed what he was because he was so associated with music and theater,” Reed said. “When people found out, there was a sense of betrayal that many people felt because theater and music are supposed to be a kind of safe haven for everyone.”
For Reed, the inclusion of McCarty takes away her ability to feel safe at events. While she doesn’t know if he should be banned from singing, Reed said, at the very least, the audience deserves to know when he’s performing.
“I think The Shedd should warn audiences when the show they are clapping for contains known Nazis,” Reed said. “By making people aware of his involvement in the show they can choose not to come, which is the very least venues could do.”
According to Ralph, The Shedd hosts over a 1,000 artists every year. To him, it’s unrealistic to imagine letting audiences know every single time an artist has controversial views.
“We would never even dream of announcing something like that on stage,” Ralph said. “Unless a performer’s past misdeeds or personal beliefs are an inherent part of his or her performance, such matters have no pertinence at all. We take our responsibility as a community leader seriously and did so in this situation.”
McCarty plans to continue performing in Eugene with The Gleeman, while still seeking “understanding and resolution” from the settlement with Dumpson.
“I understand that not all are willing to accept that I am attempting to make change for good in my life and in the community,” McCarty said. “I plan to move forward. I intend to continue musically with The Gleeman, through whom I have found great joy and a degree of acceptance and understanding for my situation and my history.”