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Eighth member resigns from Walton Arts Center board amid drag decision

by Stacy Ryburn | May 23, 2023 at 9:30 a.m.
Anna Boulding of Little Rock checks out some bubbles on Saturday, June 18, 2022, outside the Walton Arts Center at the 2022 Northwest Arkansas Pride Weekend in Fayetteville. The second annual NWA Trans March, an effort to lift visibility and advocate for Arkansas’ trans and gender non-conforming youth, kicked off Saturday’s festivities, ending with a rally at the Tyson Main Stage in the Walton Arts Center parking lot, where music and dance entertainment continued throughout the day. Along with various vendors selling concessions and Pride-themed goods and services, this year’s festival also included a parade, the Equality Crew Youth Zone and Glitterville, the official party of NWA Pride featuring 2021 Miss Gay Arkansas America Athena Sinclair and local “RuPaul’s Drag Race” stars Symone and Maddy Morphosis, at George’s Majestic Lounge. Visit for today's photo gallery..(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Another member of the Walton Arts Center board resigned Monday amid a controversy concerning drag events for minors during pride weekend, bringing the total to eight.

Elecia Smith resigned Monday, according to former board member Casey Hamaker. Hamaker announced the resignation of herself and six other board members on Friday.

The resignations came soon after the Walton Arts Center said it had concerns over a policy regarding parental attendance and would not host any drag events for minors during the Northwest Arkansas Pride Festival and Parade to be held June 24. Northwest Arkansas Equality, the nonprofit that organizes the festival, said it would move its youth zone to the Fayetteville Town Center.

Smith joins Hamaker, Anne O'Leary-Kelly, Jody Dilday, Mervin Jebaraj, Cal Rose, Lia Uribe and Shabana Kauser in resigning from the 23-member board. Six members are appointed by the city, six are appointed by the University of Arkansas and 11 are appointed by the Walton Family Foundation.

Hamaker said Friday the members were, "compelled by our consciences to make this decision." The board met Thursday and discussed the decision but did not vote on it.

NWA Equality in a news release said parents and guardians are invited to attend the festival's youth zone together. Story readings will include community members, some in costume, reading age-appropriate books to children and their parents or guardians. The teen zone will be for teens only, but with a designated area for parents and guardians, similar to a high school dance, according to the release. The policy was the same for the teen zone last year.

Print Headline: 8th member resigns from arts center board


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