Two weeks after the Floyd County Board of Supervisors talked about rescinding funding for the June Bug Center due to its involvement with a Juneteenth event and a drag show, the board on Tuesday approved the appropriation for the arts nonprofit with no public discussion about its decision.
The county’s 2023-2024 budget, which the board approved 4-1, included $4,500 for the June Bug Center, which is a match for a Creative Community Partnership grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts.
Shannon Hardwicke, the center’s executive director, said Wednesday that she is happy with the board’s decision.
“It was a stressful situation, but I’m really happy the funding came through because that means we can offer the scholarships that we want to the kids,” she said. “That was basically what we were requesting.”
At the June Bug Center, each after-school program costs $200 and summer camps are $100 per student, Hardwicke said.
“If we can get $4,500 in funding, that’s essentially 22 after-school programs, or 45 summer camps,” she said. “So even though it doesn’t seem like it’s that much funding, to us it’s a lot and we can do a lot with it.”
County funding for the arts center became an issue at the board’s June 27 meeting, when Supervisor Levi Cox moved to cut the June Bug Center’s budget appropriation because of a drag show held three days earlier in the center’s theater. The show was not produced by the center; Roanoke-based Downtown Divas rented the theater for the show.
Supervisor Kalinda Bechtold seconded Cox’s motion, criticizing the center for participating in a Juneteenth celebration earlier that month. The center had “colored out of their lines” by being part of the event, she said.
The center hosted an informational booth about its own programming at the event, which was sponsored by Floyd C.A.R.E., or Community Action for Racial Equity.
But after two other supervisors, Jerry Boothe and Linda DeVito Kuchenbuch, expressed concerns that a decision to pull back the center’s funding could be a “slippery slope,” the board tabled the motion to gather more information.
On Tuesday, Cox was the only vote against the budget resolution, according to Linda Millsaps, the county administrator.
It’s not clear why the board decided to approve the funding. A livestream of Tuesday’s meeting does not show any discussion of the June Bug Center by the supervisors. Supervisors Bechtel, Cox, Boothe and Joe Turman did not respond to phone calls and emails for this story. Millsaps declined to speak for the supervisors.
“When it comes to budget appropriations as a whole, we on elected governmental bodies have to look at the total picture and we vote accordingly,” said Kuchenbuch, who’s also on the board of the June Bug Center.
But Hardwicke said she wasn’t surprised by the board’s decision.
“Our individuals are community-driven, and they want what’s best for the community,” she said. “So I really felt like we were going to receive it.”
The budget vote came late in the meeting, after a public comment period that drew 15 people to speak about the June Bug Center.
Before any of them spoke, Turman reminded the group that they are neighbors and all are part of Floyd County.
“Let’s be considerate of each other,” he said. “No name-calling. That is not who we are.”
About half of the speakers were against funding the center. Many of their comments reiterated points made during the June 27 meeting, calling the drag show inappropriate.
The first speaker, Debra Johnson, said she had a problem with her taxpayer money going to the June Bug Center after it hosted a drag show.
“I am not a bigot, I am not some Bible-thumper coming up here,” she said. “But what I am saying is that this is not only morally wrong, it is legally wrong and we are here to protect children.”
Kirsten Vest sent a comment to the board expressing her disappointment in the June Bug Center. Despite the fact that the space had been rented out and that the drag show wasn’t sponsored by the center, it still worried her, she said.
“By allowing that type of event where children were exposed to adult entertainment, they have crossed a line and betrayed the trust the community had in them,” Vest said.
Other speakers expressed their disappointment in the supervisors’ comments about the June Bug Center.
Dave Werner spoke on behalf of Floyd C.A.R.E. and explained its mission to the board.
C.A.R.E. hosts two events for the community each year, he said; one celebrates Juneteenth and the other Hispanic Heritage Month. The June Bug Center took part in C.A.R.E.’s Juneteenth celebration to spread the word about the opportunities it offers.
“We collectively support the June Bug Center’s work,” Werner said. “And their participation didn’t occur ‘outside the color of the lines’ of their mission. In fact, we believe it strengthened their missions as they continue to expand their outreach.”
Werner said it is clear that equity is not found in every corner of Floyd County.
“We believe in celebrating the diversity of our community while honoring the history of how we all arrived here,” Werner said.
Katie Burke said she and her family attended both the drag show and the Juneteenth celebration.
“I can’t imagine why the June Bug Center’s presence at this celebration … would be seen outside their mission,” she said.
Most concerns are coming from stereotypes and distortion of information, she said. The drag show performers dressed up and lip-synced popular songs, including Disney songs.
“Anyone who is saying this show is like a strip club is just unfamiliar with these shows and operating on hearsay and stereotypes,” Burke said.