A play about food stamps, a performance by a San Francisco drag queen, and the production of Cocked, the tale of two anti-gun lesbians, each made the list of projects backed by the taxpayer-funded National Endowment of the Arts.
The agency announced its first round of grants for fiscal year 2016 last week. Projects include "sustainable" housing for struggling artists and a mural by an artist who painted portraits for Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.
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Taxpayers were billed $10,000 to support the "world premiere" of Cocked, a play by Sarah Gubbins.
"The play follows the relationship between a Caucasian woman from rural Iowa and her African-American girlfriend, who are staunchly opposed to gun ownership," the description for the project reads. "When a family member arrives unexpectedly to stay in their Chicago condominium, their position corrodes as new discoveries surface and the lines between safety and protection are blurred."
Gubbins’s previous works include I Am Bradley Manning and The Kid Thing, which examined the "effect on two lesbian couples of one couple's pregnancy" and premiered at the fifth annual "Summer Pride Festival of LGBT performances" in Randolph, Vt.
Part of a $30,000 grant is going to the ODC Theater in San Francisco for a mini-series entitled "Gender in Transition" by the drag queen Monique Jenkinson.
Jenkinson’s alter ego is "Fauxnique," who was "born out of the scene at Trannyshack."
"Jenkinson emerged out of a feminist, postmodern, improvisational dance and choreographic lineage at Bennington College, but grew toward a tradition of radical queer performance that uses glamour, excess, and drag to entertain, transcend and horrify," according to her website. A clip from a past show can be viewed here.
Struggling artists in San Francisco can look forward to government-subsidized housing through another grant from the agency. The San Francisco Arts Commission received $35,000 for "Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities for San Francisco Artists."
A play entitled #therevolution by Kristoffer Diaz in Philadelphia received $20,000 to "offer a portrait of a revolution that is rife with vision, solidarity, and passion yet searches for practical, actionable solutions for a new world order."
The New York City premiere of Smart People, a play set in a Harvard faculty lounge, is costing taxpayers $30,000.
"Set against the backdrop of the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the play follows a racially diverse group of Harvard intellectuals who interact personally and professionally for several years, each confronting issues of racial bias and stereotyping," the description for the project said.
The choreographer Kyle Abraham received $20,000 for the performances The Watershed and When the Wolves Came In, which center on "race, gender, and identity."
A promotional video for The Watershed begins with a skinny white man with a French braid putting his arm around a black man dressed in drag as an Otis Redding song plays in the background.
"At this point in my life, I am very well aware of the freedoms I possess," Abraham said in a description accompanying the video. "But as a Black Gay American man, I am equally aware of my limitations and those that exist for so many in a poly-phobic society of our current times."
Other similar projects included $10,000 for a July 2016 festival for LGBT singing groups who will appear in a "flash mob" in Denver; $10,000 for an LGBT film festival in San Francisco; and $55,000 for the Feminist Press at the City University of New York to digitize classic LGBT titles.
A theater company in Detroit received $20,000 for a "community storytelling program" using puppets to "explore themes of identity, individuality, community, and commonality."
The Human Rights Campaign and an open mic group in D.C. received $20,000 for their series "Out/Spoken: Stories about Queer Culture in America."
Several "re-imaginings" of Shakespeare received funding, including $40,000 for an all-male version of The Taming of the Shrew that intends to explore modern gender and sexuality issues.
A $30,000 grant was awarded to a Boston theater company for the multicultural play I Was Most Alive with You.
"The play explores questions of faith and struggles with addiction through its portrayal of a contemporary and diverse group of family and friends who are described as atheist, Jewish, Buddhist, gay, straight, Deaf and hearing, African American, and Iranian," the grant said.
Intermedia Arts of Minnesota, Inc. received $15,000 for a multimedia performance entitled "WOMYN" by the artist Sha Cage to "address culturally-specific ideas of beauty, healing, and self-identity."
Projects also involve political issues such as climate change and immigration.
The Boulder County Arts Alliance received $30,000 to "support One Action Creative Community Conversation on Immigration." Part of the funding will go towards a mural by the Colorado-based artist Rafael Lopez, who made official posters for President Barack Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012.
A series of plays in Los Angeles about food stamps is costing $10,000, while the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C., received $25,000.
Deferred Action, a play based on the president’s executive action to grant work permits to young illegal aliens, received $40,000. The funding is also going towards immigration education and outreach activities in Dallas.
Minneapolis will display a series of climate change-themed public art installations, which cost $20,000. An art installation made out of solar panels for the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati will cost $30,000.
Artwork with themes of "walking, journeys, directionality, belonging, and itinerancy" will be displayed in High Line Park in New York City for $35,000.
An "outdoor spectacle inspired by bicycles" in Pittsburgh is costing $20,000.
A play in New York City "inspired in part by the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown" received $30,000, and an opera about two gay men working for the CIA in the 1950s who are forced to hide their sexuality is costing $35,000.
"These projects, from all over the nation, will make a difference in their communities," said National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu. "We know from experience as well as through hard evidence that the arts matter and these projects will provide more opportunities for people to learn, create, and experience the value of the arts in so many different ways."
The total price tag for the above-mentioned projects reached $620,000.