FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — KNWA/FOX24 received a copy of an internal email sent out to employees from the Walton Arts Center’s CEO, Peter Lane, outlining the events leading to Northwest Arkansas Equality’s decision to move its Pride Youth Zone and drag performances to the Fayetteville Town Center this year.
In the memo, Lane said, “To be clear, Walton Arts Center has not banned drag shows and does not exclude minors from being present at performances that include drag.”
Many WAC customers are questioning the center’s CEO as to why NWA Equality’s Pride Youth Zone and drag performances aren’t allowed at its facilities this year, and some, such as Sarah Marsh, are demanding refunds until they get answers.
“I saved up money, splurged for really premium tickets, and then was absolutely heartbroken when I heard about the Walmart Arts Center’s stance in denying the Youth Pride Zone,” said Marsh.
Marsh said she’s really passionate about equality in the community, and according to a recent statement from the WAC, it is too.
It said, “we remain committed to supporting our diverse community and showcasing all forms of art, including drag.”
In that same statement, it says parents weren’t allowed in NWA Equality’s Youth Zone last year, but the WAC wasn’t aware of this until the day of the events, and made a note to follow up this year.
NWA Equality volunteer, Megan Tullock, said it only wants to allow adults who are trained to work with LGBTQ+ kids into its Pride youth events.
Because NWA Equality is keeping this same policy again this year, the WAC said it didn’t want to host drag performances where minors are present at pride events this year, out of safety concerns for performers, patrons and staff. NWA Equality then decided to move its youth zone to the Fayetteville Town Center.
“I want to be able to trust that they’re trained, background checked adults,” said Tullock. “Then if parents want to see or somebody wants to see at a distance is fine.”
Tullock said they’re allowing parents to watch the performances remotely, making certain members of anti-LGBTQ+ groups aren’t let in.
“We had 5,000 people come through our youth zone last year, we need to save space for kids,” said Tullock.
Now, customers, such as Marsh, are upset WAC’s policy for kids under thirteen to be accompanied by an adult at its facilities, forced NWA Equality to choose a new location.
“I’m really done with this organization,” said Marsh.
You can read about WAC’s ticket refund policy here.