An Arkansas arts center caused a flurry of frustration for a gay rights group by banning drag queen story time for minors and other drag performances aimed at minors during upcoming so-called “pride” activities.
The Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville said it will host other events as part of a community festival in late June, but drew the line at drag events for children, according to KNWA-TV.
The Walton Arts Center says it’s still open to hosting pride events this year, just not drag performances or drag story time for minors.
Northwest Arkansas Equality, which sponsors the pro-LGBT event, decided to pull any events related to the festival from the center and move its “Pride Youth Zone” to a town center.
The arts center said it was not biased against drag performers.
“Drag is a performance medium that Walton Arts Center recognizes and presents on our stages regularly, and that will not change. We celebrate diversity both on and off our stages and are open to hosting Pride events this year except for drag story time for minors and drag performances by adults specifically for minors,” a statement from the center said.
Northwest Arkansas Pride cancels event at Fayetteville arts center over drag show restriction https://t.co/7Ajr5ET81U
— Shawn Reynolds (@ShawnReynolds_) May 11, 2023
“Our decision was made in the interest of safety concerns for performers, patrons and staff due to the divisive political rhetoric at this time,” the statement said.
Northwest Arkansas Equality called the decision “surprising, disappointing and inconsistent,” according to Axios.
Richard Gathright, the director of NWA Equality, called the decision a “slap in the face,” according to KNWA.
He claimed young people will be the losers.
“The youth is actually saying, ‘No, this is not what we want.’ But you know, a lot of these folks in power don’t care, and they’re going to make whatever decision that they want. Regardless, of how the younger generations feel about it,” Gathright said.
Feeling the heat?
The Walton Family Foundation & the Walmart Foundation have been leading sponsors of NWA Equality. But now, Walmart’s Walton Arts Center will no longer host drag shows for kids at this year’s NWA Pride Weekend.
Read now. https://t.co/4lyVjGkdvi#arpx #arnews
— Conduit News (@ConduitNews) May 10, 2023
He said the move away from the center was necessary.
“They’re trying to censor clear art at an arts center. We couldn’t stand by and say half our stuff is OK there, but this particular performer can’t perform there because of this reason,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
Gathright said for his group to partner with the center again, “There would have to be a pretty significant shift in executive leadership’s thinking on this matter,” according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Fun show at the Fayetteville Town Center today. The next Fayetteville Drag Brunch sponsored by NWA Equality Inc. will be on June 9, a week before the annual Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade and Festival. More info at https://t.co/VoNUsOHYsa @nwaequality pic.twitter.com/h0sxDB6oMl
— NWADemGaz Photos (@NWADemGazPhotos) April 14, 2019
“This is not an annulment of our relationship. We’re just going to have to pause it until they can be a better ally for us,” he said.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.