WAC's Drag Drama

Pride News Coverage

On June 6, 2023, NWA Equality changed/removed the May 19 statement posted on their website.  The Walton Arts Center statement has also been removed from their site. 

At this time, neither organization has given a reason for the erasure of the information from their websites.

Below are the original statements from both organizations, courtesy of the The Internet Archive.

The Back-Story

In March 2023, NWA Equality submitted their annual plans to the Walton Arts Center for the NWA Pride Youth Zone. The Walton Arts Center declined the request, despite it's similarity to previous years' programming, citing concerns about safety and security. After several weeks of negotiations, NWA Equality announced that it would be relocating its Youth Zone events to the Fayetteville Town Center.

The Walton Arts Center's decision was met with widespread criticism from the Northwest Arkansas community and WAC patrons who condemned the decision as discriminatory and harmful to LGBTQ+ youth. The decision has also sparked a debate about the role of arts organizations in supporting local performing artists and traditional forms of LGBTQ+ cultural and artistic expression.

On May 19, six Walton Arts Center board members resigned in protest of the decision, with three more resigning over the following week. Comedian Tig Notaro canceled her Pride weekend appearance at the Walton Arts Center in due to a sudden "scheduling conflict." Arkansans for Social Justice organized a demonstration outside the Walton Arts Center with over 150 attendees calling for the resignation of the CEO, with several WAC performers joining in the protest.

The Walton Arts Center CEO has defended the decision in a series of contradictory and misleading statements, saying that it is "committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all patrons" despite it's continued refusal to allow drag performances.  The decision has been widely seen as a sign of the growing backlash against LGBTQ+ rights in Arkansas, and the Walton Arts Center CEO's willingness to sacrifice artistic expression to political pressure.

NWA Equality published their original press announcement (above) that the WAC would not be participating in Youth Zone programming on May 10, 2023.  On May 18, the WAC released a statement (below) riddled with misinformation about the programming and policies.  NWA Equality published a follow-up  (above) on May 19 to clarify.  The WAC updated their statement with  an FAQ on May 26 and revised it a few times over the following weekend, though only the original FAQ was available in the archives.

Published May 18, 2023Archived May 21, 2023

Published May 26, 2023Archived May 26, 2023

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